Greatest Days (2023) – Film Review


Directed by: Coky Giedroyc
Cast: Aisling Bea, Alice Lowe, Marc Wootton
Certificate: 12A

By Roger Crow

A few years ago I raved about The Band, Tim Firth’s finely crafted Take That jukebox musical. It was funny, touching, beautifully acted, and there was an energy on stage during both viewings that made it worth every penny of my hard-earned cash. I had to see it a second time because the first viewing in Hull was interrupted by three randoms called Gary, Howard and Mark who invaded the stage and interrupted the flow. Or, maybe it was the entire audience going nuts over their presence.

Okay, joking aside, that was a phenomenal evening, and the man band’s presence really added to the experience. The second viewing, sans the actual Take That, was also a brilliant night out.

All of this preamble brings us to the inevitable film version, which has snuck into Amazon Prime a few weeks after its cinematic debut.

And it’s a mixed bag of emotions. Aisling Bea shines as a captivating screen presence, injecting the film with her unique charm and charisma. Her portrayal of Rach, a London-based Irish nurse from Clitheroe, still obsessed with ‘The Boys’ after all these years, adds depth to the character and keeps the audience engaged throughout.

While the film attempts to translate the magic of the stage musical that birthed it, it doesn’t hit the mark. As Rock of Ages proved, the transition from live theatre to cinema can be a challenging one, and unfortunately, Greatest Days struggles to capture the same level of emotional resonance and theatrical grandeur that fans of the stage production will have hoped for.


“Move on”

And as fun as he can be in some films, Marc Wootton, who looks like an annoying hipster, shares zero screen chemistry with Ms. Bea. I can’t blame his character, Jeff, for popping the question at every available opportunity; if I was single and dating ‘Rach’, I’d do the same. But every element of the movie feels contrived. From the inevitable cameo from Barlow, Donald and Owen as buskers on a train, to the fist-bitingly awful spot of product placement from a certain budget airline. I never thought I’d say it, but suddenly Gary’s Argos adverts have a newfound degree of integrity by comparison.

And oh that gag about the band always being with Rach during her moments of trauma. Used once or twice it’s a nice idea, but every few minutes, up they pop, hiding in cupboards like a bunch of contortionist stalkers, or in Rach’s back seat. Then as a bunch of statues. We get it. Move on. And stop beating us over the head with the same idea.

It’s far too long at 112 minutes and needed 20 minutes chopping out. However, because of my love of Take That; Tim Firth’s work, and ‘Wee Miss Bea’, I keep watching long after common sense has told me to turn off. One of the key problems is how much we see of ‘The Boys’, the faux Take That who come across like a Z-list tribute band I might see down my local social club. Seriously, I saw a Neil Diamond tribute a few weeks ago who was more entertaining on his own than this band of good-looking TT avatars. I’d rather have watched a film about him than this misfire.


“Even the lip-sync looked poor”

A fantasy song and dance scene set on a bus which morphs like a Transformer, is crushingly awful. It includes a dreadful transition shot of a bus driver in rear-view mirror like some unhinged voyeur who then turns into a far-from-fabulous drag queen. Just menacing, like something from new release Apocalypse Clown. Even the lip-sync looked poor.

My favourite moment in the original show, and there are many, is when the faux Take That recreate the Progress album cover, charting a sense of evolution. It’s a few seconds long and sadly there’s no sign in the film, unless I missed it.

‘There’s progress now, where there once was none,’ has never been more wide of the mark. Greatest Days has about 10 minutes where things really gel, including Ms Bea’s younger incarnation (the brilliant Lara McDonnell) singing with her older self.

In short: watch the original (rebranded) musical Greatest Days, which returns to venues such as Hull New Theatre at the end of October ‘23, and Leeds Grand Theatre in November ‘23, but treat the film like radioactive water from a nuclear power plant.

I’ll never forget the original musical, but all I do each night is pray I can forget the movie version.

Original Songs9
Greatest Days is streaming on Prime

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