Film Pick of the Week: Wham! - review by Yvette Huddleston

Wham!Netflix, review by Yvette Huddleston

This fine documentary film about the intense four years of the pop band Wham! will be a nostalgic return to the 1980s for viewers of a certain age. But it is much more than just a fun journey back in time.

The film charts the meteoric rise – from 1982 to 1986 – of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley as they sped up the charts with hits such as Young Guns (Go for It), Club Tropicana, Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, I’m Your Man and the enduringly excellent seasonal hit Last Christmas. They were pure, unadulterated pop songs of the best, bouncy kind – all penned by Michael and Ridgeley.

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Wittily structured around a scrapbook compiled by Ridgeley’s mother as the boys’ fame grew, it documents the various stages in their success with plenty of archive footage from their early appearances on Top of the Pops to their interviews with chat show hosts such as Terry Wogan. It also includes more personal photographs and home movie snippets, going right back to the very beginning of Michael and Ridgeley’s friendship which started at school in their hometown of Bushey, Hertfordshire when they were just 11 years old.

Wham! George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley in Wham! Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023Wham! George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley in Wham! Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023
Wham! George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley in Wham! Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

There is no narration, the only voices we hear in voiceover are those of Michael and Ridgeley as they reflect on their friendship, the success of the band they created together and their decision to bring Wham! to close. They talk affectionately about their childhood – Ridgely was the extrovert, Michael the shy one following in his wake. It was Ridgely who initially suggested forming a band and who pushed for their first record deal.

They talk about the strain for Michael, as a closeted young gay man, effectively living a lie in the public eye and the pressure on both of them to conform to a constructed image. Michael of course went on to have a hugely successful solo career – it was evident even in the early days that he was the more talented performer of the pair, but the media’s rush to portray Ridgeley as a second wheel was hurtful and unfair. As Michael is at pains to point out – Ridgeley was the driving force when they started out and was also a gifted songwriter. There is an acknowledgment from both men that neither could have achieved what they did with Wham! without the other. It is a moving, intimate film that is above all a warm portrait of a close and significant friendship.