Wham! (2023)

Wham! (2023)

A moving documentary about the short but dazzling trail blazed by the pop duo Wham!



United Kingdom, United States of America
Documentary, Music
Andrew Ridgeley, Aretha Franklin, Bono
92 min

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Watch this only if you’re ready to go down the rabbit hole of pure ‘80s pop.

What it's about

Using concert footage, home movies, backstage interviews, and clips of restored music videos, documentarist Chris Smith (Fyre, Tiger King) weaves an entertaining and enlightening picture of the British pop duo Wham!

The take

For a short while in the ‘80s, the pop scene benefited from the sheer musical joy created by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, known together as Wham! With confectionary hits like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Last Christmas,” the  British duo sang about the escapism that a generation desperately sought out. Their songs were dismissed by pundits as shallow (“How can the country be in love with these two idiots?”), but as young people flocked to their concerts in droves, it was clear that Wham! struck a chord with the worn-out youth. 

They were no Beatles or Bowie, not heavyweight enough to make a lasting impression in our collective pop culture memory, but theirs is a story rich with meaningful lessons. Wham!, the film, is as much about the personal lives of the duo as it is about the difficulty of making it as independent artists; about the saving grace of music; and about the importance of authenticity. 

What stands out

One of the most important threads in this documentary follows George’s struggle with his sexuality and Andrew’s sweet display of support for his friend. Bucking the band myth of jealousy, the two came to an amicable agreement about breaking the band up at its peak to allow George to fully shine in his own light. As a closeted musician and successful solo artist, George is clearly the more interesting subject here, but the film does an impressive job of balancing the pair’s stories without obstructing the film’s timelier themes. A bit unrelated but also worth mentioning is the scrapbook structure the film follows, inspired by the actual scrapbook Andrew’s mother meticulously crafted throughout Wham!'s five-year stint as one of the biggest pop bands in the ‘80s. It’s cute and nostalgic as it adds a personal, analog touch to the film.

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