Movie Review: "Good Ol' Freda"
Rating: PG (for thematic material and smoking)
Length: 86 minutes
Release Date: Sept. 6, 2013
Directed By: Ryan White
Genre: Documentary, Biography, History
Stars: 3.5 out of 5
"Good Ol' Freda" chronicles the life of the Beatles' long-time secretary and trusted confidant, Freda Kelly. Freda was a local Liverpool girl who enjoyed the music of the up-and-coming band just like many of her peers. What made Freda different was that the Beatles saw something special in her and decided to take her on as their full-time secretary. Before the band made it big, Freda began to work with them, managing everything from their bookings to their paperwork and backstage arrangements. The envy of millions of fans, Freda got a first-hand look into the band's personal affairs and became one of the Beatles' close friends. Freda was an integral force behind the scenes of the British invasion, and director Ryan White decided to put her story into film format in this short but sweet documentary.
Unlike many documentaries, "Good Ol' Freda" excels by taking much of its information from the titular character herself. Freda's vibrant personality and colorful recollections carry the film through from start to finish. The film is also full of commentary from the remaining members of the Beatles and others who knew the band intimately. Perhaps no one knew the Beatles quite as well as Freda Kelly, and she keeps many of their secrets close to the vest even today. Freda is as vibrant as ever, showing a clear preference for bright colors and the flashy mod styles of the 1960s. As a character and a documentary subject, it's impossible not to fall in love with Freda and her larger-than-life personality.
As the film progresses, it's easy to see why the upcoming band took a chance on a local Liverpool girl who had been to all their shows. Although the Beatles were still relatively unknown outside their local area when Freda became their secretary, she still treated the job as a dream come true. Her enthusiasm shines through in this brilliant documentary and allows fans to experience the meteoric rise of the band through a different perspective.
By focusing on someone who shied away from the spotlight, "Good Ol' Freda" provides a truly unique take on the history of the Beatles. While many documentaries focus on the life and love of the band members themselves, this film gives a more balanced and realistic account of events. Freda's perspective is never dull, and even long-time fans of the band will likely be in for a few surprises throughout the film. At one point, Freda recalls that the paparazzi snapped photos of her out on an errand with Paul and immediately started rumors that the two had married. Understandably, fans and media outlets alike began to speculate as to whether this relatively unknown girl was more than just a secretary to the band's iconic bassist.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of "Good Ol' Freda" is that the film unintentionally shines a light on how unassuming Freda Kelly really is. Although she could have easily exploited her trusted status with the band for fame, media attention, and wealth, Freda remained content to hang back from the spotlight and avoid controversy. In a band that was already prone to tabloid rumors and rifts, her discretion proved to be an invaluable asset that allowed the Beatles to achieve monumental success. While "Good Ol' Freda" focuses on Freda's interactions with the band, it also details her inside perspective on the relationships between the band members themselves. She recalls the friction caused by one of the most infamous band splits in history, particularly revolving around John Lennon's controversial relationship with artist and musician Yoko Ono. Freda offers a fair and balanced perspective on all the members of the band, cementing her status as trusted confidant and arbiter of disputes.
No band has managed to captivate the attention and hearts of the entire world the way the Beatles did in their legendary career. Each member of the band remains a beloved pop icon in his own right, and the band as a whole changed the sound of music and the nature of the recording industry forever. While there are plenty of documentaries that chronicle the Beatles' rise to success and their eventual split, none offer quite the same loving candor as "Good Ol' Freda." The documentary is bold and provocative, yet refreshingly honest, making it a must-see for even the most casual fan of the band that launched the British invasion.