DOCUMENTARY

‘Good Ol’ Freda’ offers guarded recollections of the Beatles | 2 stars

Updated: 2013-10-04T13:53:07Z

By JEANNETTE CATSOULIS

The New York Times

Sweet but far from juicy, “Good Ol’ Freda” offers a gobsmackingly tame profile of Freda Kelly, the Beatles’ longtime secretary and fan club manager. Now an amiable, still-typing grandmother in her late 60s, Kelly sits on a nondescript sofa and delivers nostalgic observations on a time when her life was a great deal more exciting.

These recollections are, disappointingly, more coy than candid. (“That’s personal!” she retorts, when asked if any of her revolving Beatle crushes ever came to fruition.) The natural modesty and rigorous ethics that made her such a valuable employee keep her tongue as tethered as it was during Beatlemania, and they strip the film of anything more than the most cursory appeal.

So instead of the hoped-for tales of Liverpudlian debauchery, we get a generic jaunt down memory lane as a naïve 16-year-old Kelly falls in love with the Beatles at the Cavern Club in 1961 and is hired soon after by Brian Epstein, their manager.

Revealing little that fans will not already know — like Mr. Epstein’s closeted homosexuality and the efforts to conceal John Lennon’s first marriage — Kelly is visibly livelier and less guarded when chatting about the fan club she ran for more than a decade.

Clippings from Fab Four haircuts and worn shirts were carefully collected and dispensed to thousands of lovelorn young women, though these fragments of fame, like the rest of Kelly’s one-time hoard of memorabilia, have never been commercially exploited by their self-effacing curator.

Marinated in the standard broth of old photographs and back-in-the-day interviews (including a hale Billy Kinsley, formerly of the Liverpool band the Merseybeats and uncle of the director, Ryan White), “Good Ol’ Freda” celebrates an intensely private witness to four of the most public lives in pop-culture history. At the Tivoli.

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