Although described on its cover as “a chronicle of Paul McCartney’s cathartic journey through New York City in the aftermath of 9/11,” one doesn’t necessarily see a great deal of catharsis going on in “The Love We Make,” which originally aired on Showtime earlier this year. Granted, it’s easily arguable that the effects are internal, but the truth of the matter is that the majority of what we see can best be classified in two ways: the bits where McCartney hangs out with famous people, and the bits where average Americans are beside themselves about the fact that they’ve just had a close encounter with an actual, honest to God Beatle.
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with either of these things: it’s kind of amusing to see someone walking down the street and suddenly realize that they’re looking at Paul McCartney, and, truth be told, it’s also entertaining to be a fly on the wall when celebrities are in conversation with each other, particularly if – as is the case here – they slip into a casual familiarity that’s rarely on display when they’re being interviewed. But the film’s co-director, Albert Maysles, suggests that McCartney’s intent with “The Love You Make” was to use music to bring relief to those who were impacted by the 9/11 attacks and honor those who lost their lives in their efforts to save lives, and while that’s fair enough, the end result would be a lot more entertaining if it wasn’t presented in such a pretentious fashion. I mean, a photo of the State of Liberty on the cover? Really, Paul…? No one’s trying to suggest that you didn’t have good intentions by sticking around NYC in the wake of the attacks and trying to raise people’s spirits, but c’mon…
Although “The Love We Make” isn’t nearly as profound as its presentation tries to make you think it is, McCartney fans will still enjoy the film if they take it simply as – Beatles reference utterly intentional – a day in the life of their hero. We see him practice with his band and watch him do a few interviews, including an appearance on Howard Stern’s show. (Pre-interview, he encounters fellow Stern guest Ozzy Osbourne for what is, amazingly enough, the first meeting between the two rock icons; post-interview, McCartney seems shocked that Stern asked him if he’d ever had sex with a black woman, confirming conclusively that, although he may have been aware of Stern, he clearly hadn’t listened to him very much.) Later, we see Sir Paul dismiss a passerby who tries to get plane fare out of him and watch him get annoyed by autograph seekers who refuse to stop following his limo. There’s also a great moment when McCartney is clearly in no way as excited to hear about the Beatles cover band The Fab Faux as one of its members, Will Lee, is to tell him about it.
Is “The Love We Make” worth seeing? It is if you’re a fan of Paul McCartney. Even then, though, keep your expectations realistic. Just because the man has good intentions doesn’t mean that the end result is always going to be a career highlight…and if you don’t believe me, you need only listen to his song “Freedom,” which he offers up as the grand finale of his performance at the Concert for New York. God bless him for trying to raise everyone’s spirits, but the song’s pretty terrible.
Don’t worry, though: “The Love We Make” is better. At least a bit, anyway.