WHAM! (2023) - 7/10
Did I need a Wham! documentary in my life? I didn’t think do, but turns out I was wrong. Now let’s be clear I wasn’t a Wham! fan. I did grow up in the 80s, but I don’t think there’s a single Wham! song I like. So why on earth am I watching this? Well partly the power of Netflix marketing and partly that I do enjoy a good documentary. And this is a good documentary. It doesn’t break any moulds, the format of tons of archive is fairly standard now, but there is a wealth of stuff here that takes you right back to the era with nailed on authenticity. Two high school mates, fooling around with music, playing, experimenting. Nothing much else to do and plenty of social discord to feed off, as they muck around with home demos. What’s obvious though is they’ve got talent and drive and in George (or Yog), a great charismatic singer. ‘Wham Rap’ still leaves me cold, but hey at least there was some substance to it and in ‘Careless Whisper’, although it’s pure schmaltz, it’s pop potential really does smack you in the face. What’s interesting now, watching in 2023 is the reliance they had on the record industry to be given a break. No social media or accessible DIY scene. Young George and Andrew aren’t work shy, putting in the hours on dingy club tours, but it’s a lucky break getting the chance to fill in for a no show on Top of the Pops and from there things go nuts. It’s all about the look. It’s the 80s after all. Pretty boys (plus the two girls) and a dance routine what more do you need? Nothing apparently. The hits keep coming, charting every single. There’s no talking heads and most of the narration comes from Andrew Ridgley, stock filling in where the archive gets sparse, but there’s plenty from George Micheal too, these parts beautifully edited to make it feel like he’s been part of the production with the two friends still bouncing off one another. No more so, than when the subject of George’s sexuality comes out. How he handled it or rather didn’t. His realisation that he was gay, at a time where that was still an issue in a Conservative British society. Instead of being excepted as it would be today (in music at least), it’s repressed and hidden. Overshadowed by the critical punches they took as their pop star rose. Screaming teenagers taking over as they go on tour, they play up to it, leaving by what I’m sure are the front doors of Manchester Apollo (58:50) in towel robes, when they could’ve snuck out the side door. It’s the era of Whamania and they admittedly love it, sticking their faces on merch… and making sod all money. It’s details like this that make documentaries on subjects you didn’t think you cared about interesting. Because you don’t know everything and often because you’ve not paid attention and dismissed something, you’ve not realised there’s more meat on the bone. So we wind through the sordid issues or dodgy record deals, the band creative separation, ambition and two people on different paths. Ridgley talks openly and candidly, as much of the story becomes commanded by George. It’s to Ridgley’s credit that he drives this so well. It’s a love letter to a lost friend. Am I a converted Wham! fan? No, not at all, but I’ll admit more respect for George Micheal and Andrew Ridgley, what they did and how they did it.