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Hey, my first "BOMB" rating this whole year - and how fitting a recipient! I thought this sucked big time. No, not merely because as a John Lennon fan I consider it a sin that this tragic event was glorified into a feature-length film; believe me, if I'd thought it was a good or serviceable film in any way which really captured the aura of the tragic event, then I'd eat the crow and say so. But I'd already heard a lot of reviewers say it was kind of vapid, and that's certainly how it struck me.
The movie supposedly focuses on obsessed fan Mark David Chapman's three day stint slumming around New York City from Hawaii, and the personal demons he tackles while planning to murder ex-Beatle John Lennon, in December 1980. I say "supposedly' because there is nothing interesting cinematically to try and turn an essentially plot-less story into something with a drive or purpose. The feature is based on a book by Jack Jones, called LET ME TAKE YOU DOWN. In it, Jones managed to get into the warped head of a complex murderer and offered up many transcripts of detailed talks with Chapman. Jones' was the superior work, if there can be such a thing on a subject as dire as this.
I thought that Jared Leto in the role of Chapman was physically a good choice, with him having put on all the weight and so on. But as someone myself who's heard Chapman's voice over the years, in documentaries and on news shows like 20/20 and Larry King (yup, for historical purposes and the need to try and make logic out of the murder I have watched them) I thought his faux southern voice was pretty bad. It was so obviously put on and he slipped in and out of it, emphasizing it more at certain times than others.
First, some admittedly trivial and anal things -- what bugged me throughout the film were all kinds of mistakes. Things like the Dakota building looming as it stands now - all clean and light tan-looking in color, when in reality back in 1980 it was filthy with grimy black soot of the ages, which had made it even more macabre-looking to fit the unfolding scenario. Now, don't get me wrong - I realize this is an oversight practically nobody noticed or cared about, and I didn't expect the filmmakers to REBUILD the Dakota! But as someone myself who is from New York and visited the Dakota both in 1980 and after, I was always reminded this was not 1980, every time I saw the building.
There's a scene where Chapman goes into a shop and buys the PLAYBOY magazine with John's current interview. Well, the magazine here is NOT called PLAYBOY; it's something else not even remotely of a similar title. And later, when he sets up the dresser in his hotel room with all sorts of his personal mementos, it's a tiny WIZARD OF OZ postcard he picked up in the store. In reality, he used an actual movie lobby card from the film, and it was especially poignant in a twisted way, because in reality it was a favored shot of Dorothy wiping away the tears from the Cowardly Lion. Apparently, for the film, they figured anything with the name "Wizard Of Oz" would do. Same holds true for the cover of the DOUBLE FANTASY album... it's another staged pic and not the real album. Now, of course I realize that all these substitutions were probably due to "rights" issues. Good for those who refused permission, I'd say - if the filmmakers even bothered to try to ask them.
The biggest problem with this movie, all quibbling done, is that it's DULL AS DISH WATER!! There is no attempt made to really get into the psyche of Chapman, or maybe I feel that way because I've read the Jack Jones book of interviews and talks on which this movie was based, and so much just did not come through or get covered. There still could have been a way to run through these events and handle them in a more intense style of a more escalating manner. The way the movie came off to me was like when you see a cheap TV show re-enactment, and none of the actors are really convincing, and it's obvious that it's just what it is - A RE-ENACTMENT. It was like bad documentary making. Lindsay Lohan might just as well not have been in the film, considering how her character of the fan Jude is rarely featured and there's no real drama in her scenes with the killer. I have seen an interview with the real Jude from back in the day, by the way, and Lindsay looks like Raquel Welch next to her.
I've looked up the credits for writer/director J.P. Schaefer and this appears to be his very first film - and why am I not surprised? This thing looks and feels like someone's very first attempt at a film class project. Totally amateurish and empty. Even though this is not a fictional movie, you know how people sometimes say "The Book Was Better!" when talking about some films? Well, that certainly applies here. The book LET ME TAKE YOU DOWN was more disturbing, more concise, more dramatic, and much more informative on every level. It also takes us down deeper into Chapman's twisted mind, for whatever reasons one might care to delve. (For me it was in desperate search of some kind of reasoning or understanding). Well, I never found either, but the book is still a fascinating read, I must concede. The movie is garbage. 0 out of ****
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