The new documentary about George Michael, Andrew Ridgeley and the music they made as Wham! — it’s just called “Wham!” — found me in a moment of need for a nostalgic, fantastical elixir, something short, sweet and tangential to my sense of national blues. First, Wham!, the duo, made soul music that came out. And the film dances past all the thorny moral and ethical questions of white people doing Black things. Those questions don’t exist at all in this film. That’s the fantasy. And I’m here for it. But also: Wham! had no thorns.
Here were two white boys from England of solid Greek-Cypriot (George) and Egyptian (Andrew) stock, born during the rise of Motown in the early 1960s and, in adolescence, bound to each other when disco handed the party stick to new wave and rap. . They synthesized everything (except a little Barry Manilow and Freddie Mercury, and a little Billy Joel) into a genre whose only other alchemists, really, were Hall and Oates. In each of the duo’s roughly two dozen songs — including “All She Wants,” “Wake Me Before You Go,” “I am Your Man,” blocks everything — there is influence but, in the evocation of the film, no anxiety. Race doesn’t quite exist here.
The film doesn’t bother with journalism or criticism or music history. Just lots of pictures and archival interviews, performance footage, outtakes and music videos. It’s essentially adapted, by director Chris Smith and some very busy editors, from scrapbooks Ridgeley’s mother kept, celebrating everything from the duo’s first attempt to storm the airwaves in 1981 to their awkward breakup in 1986. That’s where it ends. things, a. a year before the release of Michael’s mega-hit album “Faith,” and decades before his death in 2016 at 53. There’s also no mention of Ridgeley’s misunderstood, out-of-print 1990 solo album, “Son of Albert.”
There aren’t even talking heads. The disembodied voices of Michael and Ridgeley lead the whole thing – rumination and memory as narrative. (Most of Michael’s comes from a BBC Radio interview.) They explain how they met as schoolchildren in the mid-1970s and took over a mini-block of 1980s culture. You hear that Ridgeley still warmly calls Michael by his nickname, Yog, because he was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, and see both his looks pinball from a leather bar to. Richard Simmons.