‘Wham!’ Review: A Nostalgia-infused Documentary, High On Pop Culture Events But Low On Content

There is still a huge section of people out there in the world that are still enamored by Wham! and the pop culture phenomenon that they were throughout the decade of the 1980s. They have had tremendous influence not just on the music industry all around the world, but also on fashion. Netflix’s brand-new documentary film on this famous pop group from Britain is all about recollecting an era that was filled with some great music, where this duo reigned supreme. Directed by Chris Smith, the film was released on July 5, 2023.

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This jaunty, color-filled documentary is blessed with voice overs done by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley themselves while they recollect the journey they began by playing with a school band called the Executive in the late 1970s. The two of them, as stated many times in the film itself, were friends since their school days and stayed that way for a very long time. From their first outing as Wham! in 1982 until the year they parted ways, this is what the documentary is all about. The ninety-minute documentary charted their journey to help the audience get a peek into what their lives were like and if their popularity affected them.

The documentary has everything that is good for the audience. Songs from forty years ago, the fashion of that time, pop stars and their stardom, and relive the era through all of these. What could go wrong in such a case? The documentary could have easily spanned three long episodes that could chart the length and breadth of WHAM! Instead of that, the writers whittled it down to ninety minutes, and that’s the reason the screenplay in this film seems to be moving fast and jumps from one key event to another without explaining in detail what went behind the scenes. There are only the voiceovers of the duo that are taking us through the tour, and nobody else from the band came forward and spoke in detail about what it was like to be working with Wham!

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It was purely the makers who chose to stick to the OG’s speech about their journey. It only makes sense to hear the stories straight from the horse’s mouth. There was not much about the two women, Shirlie and Pepsi, who were a big part of their band. It would have been interesting to hear stories from their point of view. They were briefly mentioned in this film, as Shirlie was Andrew’s girlfriend as well.

As fans of the band, we would have found the documentary engaging if the makers had tried to introduce conflict. It is rather difficult to believe that they didn’t face any problems on their way to becoming one of the most famous pop groups. The conflict could take any form, but sadly, there is no mention of it. It felt as if the makers just went on ticking off the checklist going down the entire timeline of the band leading up to their split.

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The makers also relied on Andrew and Michael’s versions of their most popular songs which were written, composed, and produced by the two. Viewers can easily guess the names of the chartbuster songs which were highlighted in this documentary. Though the stories are brief and interesting, it would have been fascinating to hear more about their songwriting and music-producing processes rather than keeping it concise. In this era of no-holds-barred documentaries, this one could have explored more than it gave this audience.

Even though the narrative was fast, thankfully, the makers took us through the teenage life of the duo and what made them pick up music out of all the options they had in front of them. They beautifully explored the friendship the two of them shared, and that aspect is a heartwarming portion. The documentary also touched on the ancestry of the two families. They came from diverse backgrounds but adopted the culture of the UK and pursued completely different career paths than what their families had expected of them. It was interesting to watch how the two of them charted their legacy and eventually made their family proud. If only the documentary was not this short and given time to expand and breathe in the familial dynamics of the duo to understand where their love for music comes from. Is it because music runs in their family, or was it an act of rebellion?

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The only conflict that the documentary relied on was George’s sexuality, which was kept hidden for a very long time and was under speculation as well. It was heartfelt to understand and hear George talk about how he felt being a closeted gay man for a long time and having to put up a facade by having girlfriends. It briefly touched upon the mental agony George faced because he had to remain quiet about it for many years.

The documentary focused more on George than Andrew because, for obvious reasons, the former has been the most popular of the two. The only redeeming factor about the entire film is the footage gathered by the makers, and the voiceovers of the two gentlemen, who seem to have spoken from their hearts. The footage and the photography put a face to all the anecdotes the duo talks about, and it brings a smile to the audience’s face. All the songs are a trip down memory lane. It was interesting to understand how self-aware the stars were even at the prime of their careers, and it comes across as an additional positive. The editing of the documentary is jarring because the interweaving of the footage with voiceovers does not work in many places because it confuses the audience. The running time of the show is the biggest bane because the writers ended up fitting in too many stories, and there was too little time to explore each one of them.

Though the ending of the documentary was as emotional as the farewell tour of Wham!, there is a lingering feeling of insufficiency and dissatisfaction. The documentary retained the youthful energy that Wham! represented, but sadly, only a handful of facets kept up with the gripping narrative. Watch this documentary if you are head over heels in love with the 1980s and want to relive the music of Wham!


Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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Though the ending of the documentary was as emotional as the farewell tour of Wham!, there is a lingering feeling of insufficiency and dissatisfaction.'Wham!' Review: A Nostalgia-infused Documentary, High On Pop Culture Events But Low On Content