Chapter 27, a film which views the murder of John Lennon from the perspective of his assasin Mark David Chapman, has provoked predictable controversy. Given that Chapman, delusional or not, intended his murder of Lennon as some kind of statement, a film examining his motives is questionable. Indeed, a particularly vocal boycott campaign has been underway, succesfully, in America where the film looks unlikely to be released in theatres. A site has been set up, which with a certain moral zest that this reviewer finds distasteful, tells us that this movie is ‘definitely in the wrong’. Interestingly, before the film had finished production, the boycott campaign had issued an online petition which stated “we find the possible ‘angles’ of this film neither educational nor entertaining.”
A boycott campaign of any artwork, prior to having weighed up a pieces actual merits, seems a strange way to pay tribute to John Lennon. A decision a priori that no film examining Lennon’s murderer can be justified or tolerated seems to stink. It also seems like a good reason to go and see Chapter 27. It is, though, the only good reason, as the film really does stink from every angle.
There are a number of moments during the film where it’s slow, ponderous, self-regarding tone is excused. Conversing outside the Dakota building, a photographer explains that the building was where Rosemary’s Baby was filmed. Lindsey Lohan’s particularly lightweight character, Jude, responds that she didn’t like the movie, it was too slow, and nothing happens until the end. The photographer immediately resonds, ‘but Jude, that’s Polanski’. It sounds like a cry for tolerance from a film that has at this point painfully lumbered it’s pretentious, and heavy-jowled ass around the screen for what seems like an eternity, with the simple and heavily overplayed intent of examining the parallels between Chapman and his literary hero Holden Caulfield.
The tone is set at the start, with Jared Leto adopting a painfully coy southern accent narrating directly to the camera. Leto is convincing as Chapman throughout, not simply because he piled on weight to transform himself uncannily from pretty boy rocker into the bloated assasin, but because he plays the role well. That, though, makes neither for brilliant art or interesting cinema. The god-awful truth stakes itself out over the course of the film. The only interesting thing about Mark David Chapman is that he killed John Lennon, and that fact took him a couple of seconds.
Could a brilliant film be made about Chapman and the murder of John Lennon? Perhaps. There are plenty of interesting and important meditations that arise from the murder- the notion of celebrity, art etc. This film, though, is as interesting as Mark David Chapman in his own right – i.e not very.