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Film / Two of Us

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A 2000 TV Movie depicting a fictionalised version of an afternoon and evening that John Lennon (Jared Harris) spent with Paul McCartney (Aidan Quinn) in New York City in 1976. This was the occasion when they happened to be watching Saturday Night Live, on the night that Lorne Michaels offered The Beatles $6000 if they'd play three songs on the show: this incident is dramatised in the movie, and forms part of its dramatic climax.

It was written by Beatles fan Mark Stanfield and directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who'd directed Let It Be and therefore had some first-hand knowledge of his subject matter. Thanks to a surprisingly well-informed and sensitive script, and some fine performances from the two leads—the whole film is practically a two-hander between John and Paul—it's one of the better fictional depictions of the Beatles. Most reviewers agreed that what could have been a terrible exercise in bad accents and celebrity impersonation was in fact a sympathetic and well-crafted piece of drama.


Contains examples of:

  • Achilles in His Tent: Other people treat John as if he is this, with a fan in the coffee shop asking him if he's ever going to come out of retirement. Paul recognises that John is in fact trying to be a good husband and father.
  • Affectionate Nickname: John addresses Paul as "Macca" and refers to Yoko Ono as "Mother"; the latter of these at any rate is Truth in Television.
  • Angst: A good chunk of the film is devoted to John owning up to the fact that he suffers from this.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: When John takes off his glasses and asks Paul what he sees, Paul gives one of these in reply. See You Are Better Than You Think You Are, below.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: There's one strikingly early on, when John's sneers at Paul's music and general attitude get Paul so annoyed that he storms out of the apartment and goes down to the lobby. He then hesitates, and decides to go up and give John a last piece of his mind. He finds John outside the apartment, putting on his shoes, preparing to come down to him. They stare at each other for a moment, then John says "Well, come on then," and they go back into the apartment to continue the argument.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: When Lorne Michaels offers them money to appear on Saturday Night Live, John and Paul's initial response is to find this hilarious, but then John persuades Paul that it'd be amazing. Paul goes down to his car to fetch his guitar but while he's gone, Yoko finally rings John. When Paul returns, John is on the phone to her and Paul realises that Yoko and his family means more to John than the chance of being a Beatle one last time, so he mouths to John "I gotta go" and diplomatically slips out, with John raising a hand in farewell. On the way back to his own hotel, Paul rings Linda and tells her he loves her.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: In their biggest argument in the film, Paul and John air their own grievances that led to the Beatles breaking up.
    • John hated how much Paul resented Yoko had become a part of his life to the point where she was with him in recording sessions. He also was not amused by how much Paul had been taking over the group to the point that every A-side was a Paul song.
    • Paul says that he hated Yoko mostly because it was easier to be mad at her than John. He was heartbroken as he felt he was losing his best friend, and that she taking his place with John even in a musical capacity. He also insists that he was on the A-sides because no one else was coming up with anything good.
  • Bottle Episode: The majority of the film takes place in Lennon's apartment at the Dakota.
  • Breaking the Cycle of Bad Parenting: John had to deal with a Disappeared Dad and a mother who gave John to be raised by his aunt. He's now retired from music and focused on being a father for Sean. note 
  • Brutal Honesty: John's preferred method of interacting with people.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both of them.
  • Dramatic Irony: When John agrees to leave the apartment with Paul, he says "This is New York, nothing's gonna happen to us here."
  • Dude, Not Funny!: John and Paul's reaction to a joke made at Ringo's expense on SNL.
  • Foil: John and Paul for where they are in life. John is in de facto retirement from music and fame. Paul in contrast is touring with a number one album.
  • Happily Married: Paul, to Linda. Also John to Yoko, although this is only evident at the end.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Played for laughs, as John and Paul are going up to the roof of the Dakota in a lift: they start mock-fighting, and then John kisses Paul hard on the lips. They immediately pretend to be exaggeratedly straight football fans, talking about the fortunes of Leeds FC, and then crack up laughing.
  • Nothing but Hits: Averted. You'd think a film about the two most famous Beatles would be full of Beatles songs. In fact, there are no Beatles songs in the film at all.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Both John and Paul's mother's died when they were teenagers at roughly the same time. Uncannily both of their father's have passed away around the same time.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Aidan Quinn's American accent sometimes shines through his Liverpool accent. Averted with Harris as Lennon.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: The elderly couple in the coffee shop who ask John if he wouldn't mind singing a few lines from "Yesterday". Let's just say that they taste his wrath.
  • Rage Against the Legal System: John trolls the two mounted cops in Central Park because he hates cops, whereas Paul is polite and friendly. It turns out that the reason Paul was so polite is that he's got a huge bag of weed in his coat pocket, and was trying to signal John to stop being such a dick because it could get them arrested.
  • Recognition Failure: When they go out to Central Park and to have coffee in John's favourite coffee shop, John is repeatedly recognised by people but Paul isn't—except by one woman.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: John is red, wanting to shock people with his music and make them see the truth; Paul is blue, wanting to make people happy with his music because he thinks they already know the truth.
  • Shout-Out: John and Paul in their hats and suits resemble Laurel and Hardy, which is lampshaded in the movie when John can't open the gate to the Dakota's service lift and Paul does it for him in a very Ollie-like way.
  • Smoking Is Cool: John and Paul smoke cigarettes all the way through the film, except in Central Park, where John accepts a giant joint from a rastafarian guy.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Paul and John, respectively. When John gets his guitar down from above his bed, it's out of tune. "Oh shit," he mutters, "never mind, get Paul to tune that."
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Not only a feature of John and Paul's relationship, but also a theme of the film: are they really Best Buds, or is it just that Paul wants to think that they are?
  • Western Zodiac: John only agrees to go for a walk after he's looked up the star charts and confirmed that Mercury isn't in retrograde. When Paul challenges him on why he's allowing his life to be ruled by astrology, John casually remarks that it's a lot easier than having to make up your own mind about what to do.
  • Yoko Oh No: Deconstructed, because it's the real Yoko, although she never appears. Paul still resents John for getting so absorbed in Yoko that he neglected the band, but he ends up accepting that she means more to him now than being an ex-Beatle.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Paul gives John an especially touching one of these on the roof of the Dakota, telling him how "beautiful" he thinks John is and how he shouldn't have to feel so much guilt and anger about his mother's death.