Elton John – Friends (1971)

FriendsalbumElton John fans rejoice! Friends is coming to Netflix! Netflix just announced that…oh wait, nevermind…it’s not the long forgotten 70’s movie.

A movie that is so critically reviled that reading the skewering reviews virtually tempts one to hunt down a viewing copy and subject yourself to it. 

A vehicle that we are forced to reckon with because it meets the criteria of virtually everything that piques our interest.
Out Of Print Soundtrack: Check
Out Of Print Movie: Check
Awesome Cover Art: Check
Taboo Subject Matter: Check

And while Friends passes the smell test, it is a really tough one to endorse. Let’s turn it over to Roger Ebert for a more blunt take on the film:

“Friends” is the most sickening piece of corrupt slop I’ve seen in a long time. It’s so cynical in its manipulation of youth, innocence, sunsets and all the rest that you squirm with embarrassment. And the movie is all the more horrible because you realize that its maker, Lewis Gilbert, no doubt intended this to be a “sincere personal statement” (as they say in the movies) after his “commercial” projects like “The Adventurers” and “You Only Live Twice.”

Yet, “Friends,” in its way, is more cynically commercial than “The Adventurers,” which was at least an honest piece of crap. “Friends” drips with simpering close-ups of wide-eyed young faces. It has a sound track of slightly rotten syrup, interrupted occasionally by banal songs by Elton John. It has so many idyllic romps through the fields, so many sunsets, so many phony emotional peaks and so much pandering to the youth audience in it that, finally, it becomes a grotesque parody of itself.

Oh and he’s just getting warmed up.  Roger goes for the kill in his closing paragraph.

There are probably no 14- or 15-year-olds in the entire world like these two; they seem to have been created specifically for the entertainment of subscribers to Teenage Nudist. The archness of their “innocence” toward sex is, finally, just plain dirty. And the worst thing is that the movie seems to like it that way.

Damn, Ebert is missed. Read his full review here.

Critic vitriol aside, this movie was a worldwide hit (not so much in the US), and went on to garner a Golden Globe Nomination, and Lewis Gilbert soldiered on to make an even less welcome sequel called Paul and Michelle.

The Grammy nominated soundtrack isn’t a total loss. It’s Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s fourth full length collaboration, and you can tell they were locked-in, confident, and finishing each other’s sentences at this point.  Not a huge surprise that this album precedes Madman on the Water and what went on to become their golden era.

Friends is the maudlin, yet worthy, distant cousin of Candle in the Wind, and Honey Roll showcases the New Orleans vibes that would later show up on 1972’s Honky Cat. Elton John fans rejoice!

Friends – Elton John