The “Wham!” Netflix documentary struck me as, well, you can guess.
Wham! was formed in 1982, the year after my birth; when I turned four, the pop duo (okay, that was it guy a quartet) was done. So you’ll forgive me if I missed some context of the group’s real-time rise to stardom and eventual split. Enter: Netflix, director Chris Smith (“Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond”), and Andrew Ridgeley’s mom.
When I streamed the Netflix doc of the same name, released June 17, I wasn’t expecting much more than 92 minutes of schlock, some catchy tunes, and maybe a good explanation for the 1980s ’80s ‘Choose Life’ T-shirts. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go music video (We didn’t get much from the doctor about those shirts, but Google reminded me that at the time, it was a statement against drugs and suicide, not a position against abortion. “Wham!” a satisfying explanation behind the song’s title itself, by the way.)
To my surprise, even what we didn’t get from “Wham!” it was very much the drama of George Michael. If that sounds like a serious omission, given his various drug charges and a very famous 1998 arrest for “committing an obscene act” in a public restroom, it really isn’t.
“Wham!” function, such as Wham! the group, is the sweet story of friendship between fellow Brits Michael (born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou) and Ridgeley. That’s the point, so that’s the doctor. It is as pure as fresh snow; you’ll never again look at the dinner scenes of the “Last Christmas” music video with a hint of cynicism.
In their relatively short time together as professionals, Michael and Ridgeley have gone from playing clubs to taking their last bow at Wembley Stadium. Along the way, Wham! compiled a bunch of No. 1 hits, swept across America, and became the first Western pop act to play in China. Like Wham!, “Wham!” ends exactly where it should, with Ridgeley having a front row seat to Michael’s solo career.
We all know what happened to Michael from there. His stardom reached new heights with classics like ‘Careless Whisper’ (Ridgeley had a hand in that), ‘Faith’ and ‘Freedom ’90’, among others. He died on Christmas Day 2016. George Michael’s story didn’t need to be told again, but the Wham! history did. And “Wham!” finally gives Ridgeley the spotlight he deserves.
Ridgeley was the band’s original musician/songwriter/dreamer. He was even the original Wham! heartthrob and playboy. Dare I say, at times, he might as well have had the best hair; it was all lost to history. For me, Ridgeley had just been the other boy to Wham! His whole life has been reduced to a bad joke about who he is it was not in a band that I thought was itself a joke. I realize now that we would all be so lucky to have a best friend with such grace.
I should point out that with much of the documentary based on Ridgeley’s recollections and his mother’s scrapbooks, it wouldn’t be hard to skew Andrew’s favor a bit. All I can say is that it doesn’t feel that way. (Though not a credited producer on the doc, Ridgeley took the idea and his memoir, “Wham! George & Me” to Netflix and Smith.)
The other great triumph of “Wham!” it’s justice that George Michael, the songwriter, needs. Prior to this, I didn’t appreciate how good the guy was at his trade and how much that specific recognition meant to him. For the uninitiated, Smith, Ridgeley and another lyricist who calls himself Elton John will give you the hint.
It’s not just me hanging around on Wham! According to Netflix, “Wham!” it was viewed 4.4 million times last weekmaking it the streamer’s #8 most watched movie (in any language) from July 3-9.
“Wham!” is currently streaming on Netflix. Go for it (- go); your beats per minute will never be the same.