A group of estranged friends reunite for a pop pilgrimage in Coky Giedroyc’s dire big screen version of the official Take That musical.
Midway through Greatest Days, based on the 2017 Take That jukebox musical The Band, a ‘Shine’ number takes place on an airport runway. The song was the band’s big 2007 comeback hit (minus Robbie Williams) with vocals by Mark Owen who appears in the music video in a top hat and tails surrounded by chorus girls. The scene in the film takes its lead from there, replete with a shot through the bare legs of stewardesses imitating Busby Berkeley’s 42nd Street choreography. Words cannot do justice to how laughably flat-footed this number is, with Aisling Bea, Alice Lowe, Jayde Adams, and Amaka Okafor plodding about on the tarmac around an EasyJet plane. It’s more Butlins than Broadway.
As with director Coky Giedroyć’s last film, How To Build a Girl based on the memoir of the same name by Caitlin Moran, Greatest Days rests solely on ‘90s nostalgia and Take That’s long-suffering fan base of British women. Amongst them is Rachel (Bea), a children’s nurse of the OG Take That generation – sorry, ‘The Band’ – made up of five unknowns who appear as figments of Rachel’s imagination. Presumably this is to compensate for the fact that Take That’s original quintet is now a trio, but it’s still bizarre that the band in the film isn’t meant to be Take That, especially remaining members Howard Donald, Gary Barlow and Mark Owen were involved in production. Unlike the lads’ real-life counterparts, these stand-in singers are so devoid of talent or charisma that you barely notice they’re there.
The first half of the film follows Rachel and her friends in their school days prior to a jaw-droppingly macabre event that separates them for 25 years. When present-day Rachel wins tickets to see The Band’s reunion concert in Athens, we play catch-up in a literalisation of ‘Never Forget’ as we see how the group’s dreams have been realised and dashed. It’s a second act of shock and awe, inviting us to gasp as diver Claire has gained weight to become Jayde Adams, slutty Heather has sworn off the boys as lesbian Alice Lowe, and nerdy Zoe dropped out of university and became a mother-of-four played by Amaka Okafor.
Each character’s arc is played as a tragedy, suggesting that they have somehow failed as women in the world. By setting the first act largely in the past and the second in the present, it’s hard for the adult cast to make an impression when they eventually show up after the one-hour mark. Lowe knows she is far too good for this and it shows on her face, while Adams works awkwardly with the script’s fat jokes. Like Take That themselves, it’s hard to believe Greatest Days exists in 2023.
And, of course, these twists of fate are set to the hits of Take That. We get ‘Relight My Fire’ on a bus which becomes a drag-show-cum-sex-dungeon, ‘Said It All’ as an abstract dance number in a Greek prison, and a dirge-like ‘A Million Love Songs’ as a funeral eulogy. Few films induce such dizzying tonal whiplash, smashing together past and present in blatant imitation of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. But unlike the ABBA musicals, the plot seldom takes its cue from the lyrics to hilariously dissonant effect, especially as the greatest hits largely play out in chronological order. It’s hard to imagine that any Take That fan would rather listen to badly autotuned covers of their favourite songs than the original recordings. Just hope that someday soon this will all be someone else’s (bad) dream.
Little White Lies is committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them.
Published 15 Jun 2023
The musical this film is based on is now a staple of P&O Cruises onboard entertainment.
I think I finally understand the lyrics to the song ‘Patience’. I need time.
Take That should have left their cinematic legacy at penning the end-credit song from Stardust.