Good Ol' Freda (2013)
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Critic Reviews for Good Ol' Freda
Brian Epstein needed someone to run the nascent Official Beatles Fan Club. Freda, just 17, got the job.
In this charming insider account, Kelly traces her history with the band from the very early days until after their split.
While the tales of the band's spectacular rise create a genial mood, the film feels superficial.
[Gives] insight into a rare, innocent time in rock history when a scrap of pillowcase that cradled a mop-top singer or an autographed photo were all fans needed to feel close to their idols.
Audience Reviews for Good Ol' Freda
If you like The Beatles' music, there are plenty of chances to hear it here. This is a behind the scenes history of The Beatles from the point of view of Freda Kelly, secretary for the four lads from Liverpool and editor of their fan magazine. I'm a fan of The Beatles, but there are obviously much bigger fans. There are several cool stories about the families of the boys and how close Freda became to them all, however when she starts going through her mementos in the attic (newspaper and hair clippings), I began to wish the doc was a bit shorter. Even the archival photo and film begins to get a little repetitive. Freda of the 60s is painted as a thoroughly modern, take charge kind of girl. Freda today doesn't seem to regret anything, but she seems like a completely different person from her younger self. The story is unfortunate how she is one of countless women who gave up a career to raise a family and her children barely know anything about this earlier part of her life in proximity to fame. Now they and we have this document.
Freda Kelly was the Beatles' secretary. A shy, humble girl who's admirably loyal to the band's privacy. Hence, this documentary is deadly uneventful. Even at just 86 minutes, the film seems too long, and Kelly's endless shrugs, giggles and blushes soon turn tedious. The stress on soundbites from forgotten Merseybeat musicians over thoughts from, say, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Martin is another glaring problem. The score cuts corners by featuring just a handful of Beatles songs and filling the void with earlier songs that the group covered.
Many documentaries have been made about The Beatles, so don't go into GOOD OL' FREDA expecting a searing look inside the most popular, beloved band of all time. You'll be greatly disappointed. Instead, this is a film about the loveliness of privacy and integrity. Freda Kelly was an unassuming Liverpudlian teen when she was handpicked to work as the secretary of the Beatles' Fan Club. There when they were unknowns and there when they disbanded, Freda is one of the few in the trusted inner circle who didn't sell her story to the tabloids or write a book. She even gave away priceless memorabilia to the fans or donated it for a good cause.
Ryan White, in fact, was originally asked by Freda to document her story just so she could have a DVD to show to her grandchildren. She wanted them to know that Grandma had perhaps the coolest job of any teenager in the history of the world, Alexander the Great notwithstanding. It is with such humble intentions that he began to sit her down to tell her story.
Although he works with such documentary conventions as chronological storytelling and Ken Burns photo zooms, White gets something very special here. Here's a woman who could spill the beans and give us the goods, yet she steadfastly refuses to do just that, which in and of itself is the most compelling thing about the film. Frankly, I have no interest in sordid details. It's enough to hear from her that John was grumpy sometimes, that George was considerate Paul was fun, and Ringo had a mother she adored. We also are treated to wonderful photos and film from the early days, when the Beatles played a local dive called The Cavern Club. Equally interesting are Kelly's recollections of the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein. She pinpoints his closeted rage, and very humanely grew to understand him. It's sweet to see a woman of her age display such a caring, open mind and heart.
One could argue that the film gets repetitive when Freda details over and over the volume of fan mail and her endeavors to get the band to sign autographs, but it's her utter sense of decorum and kindness that mesmerized me. How refreshing it is to see a documentary subject not, as they like to say in reality shows these days, "throw someone under the bus". We live in a time where we're accustomed to seeing people be nasty to each other and call it entertainment. White and Kelly's display of basic human kindness is just the jolt I needed. I was privileged to catch a screening of the film with both White and Kelly in attendance. The standing ovation they received felt so genuine. The audience, high on the nostalgia the film evokes, cold barely contain their excitement and gratitude.
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