Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Review: "Desperately Seeking Paul McCartney"

Reading the title of "Desperately Seeking Paul McCartney," you get a strong hint that this might not be a fan tribute. The film, which won the audience favorite award at the 2008 Mockfest Film Festival in Hollywood, is a documentary about how an obscure event still reverberates some 40 years after the fact.

In 1965, Ruth Anson, then an attractive young reporter for a local Los Angeles TV station, covered the arrival of the Beatles in the city. When she asked Paul McCartney if he had plans for marriage, his answer, caught on film and shown several times in the DVD, was "Only if you'll marry me." The words stuck with her.

Forty years later, Anson, now Ruth Anson-Sowby, attempts to reconnect with the event and experience closure by getting in touch with McCartney. A filmmaker, Marc Cushman, decides to take on the project of making a documentary about her quest. When things don't work out as initially planned, it becomes a reality-TV project, and with it comes little regard for the feelings of Sowby, much to the dismay of some of her family and friends. Finally, Cushman decides the group should connect with McCartney at the Grammy Awards. The ups and downs of preparations, along with the efforts to even see Paul McCartney at the event, form the almost-comic climax of the film.

There is plenty of vintage footage of Sowby interviewing celebrities here, including the original McCartney footage, plus others, including Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope and George Murphy. The McCartney footage is run several times. It is heard in the film the makers had to pay a large sum to license the footage and they use it often.

Much of the time, reality TV goes for cheap entertainment at the participants' expense. That's the bottom line here. This is not a celebration of the Beatles, but like much of reality TV, this documentary of one woman's dream is a sad song that doesn't get better. (Bonus features include twelve Beatle-like songs.)

Read our exclusive interview with Ruth Anson Sowby.