Chapter 27

Chapter 27

Film review by: Witney Seibold

            A note: I did not see all of “Chapter 27.” It was playing at the theater where I work, and I saw it in pieces, out-of-order, over the course of a week. Ordinarily, I don’t consider this enough to give a proper review, but for “Chapter 27,” I feel I can make an exception.

 

            Jared Leto (he of “Fight Club” and 30 Seconds to Mars), wanting to show off what a good actor he really is, and to deflect some of his rock-star pretty-boy image, gained over 60 pounds, matted down his hair, and selected to play one of the most infamous characters in American rock history for one of the most bizarro vanity projects to come along since, well, I guess since “Slipstream.” Why did Mark David Chapman kill John Lennon (played, ironically enough, by an actor named Mark Lindsay Chapman)? How did Chapman’s obsession with Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye play into his crime? Just what was he up to those few days before the trigger was pulled? Leto has a few ideas. His pal J.P. Shaefer wrote and directed the film, but Leto himself produced it, so I’m guessing it was mostly his story.

 

            What is canny about the film is its authenticity. Both Leto and Shaefer have a very solid knack for accurately depicting a certain brand of mental instability. Why did Chapman kill Lennon? Well, for no real reason, other than the fact that, in Chapman’s mind, it started to become inevitable after a while. He wanted, you see, to add a 27th chapter to his favorite book. Even his few days in New York resembled the adventured of Holden Caulfield, and Chapman thought he was the living embodiment of Caulfield. He wanted to do something big, good or bad. He wanted to… um… well, now that he’s in prison, he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.

 

            What’s not so canny about this film (and the reason I’m reviewing only a portion of it) is that it’s insufferable. Leto speaks in a breathy whine that makes him sound like he’s doing a Björk impersonation after a night of heavy smoking. He narrates and chatters and pontificates in pseudo-intellectual aphorisms that only sound like the nonsensical rantings of a particularly obnoxious mentally ill man. His madness may be accurate, but, the way it’s presented, it’s not at all interesting. Madness can be interesting, even fascinating (see “Clean, Shaven” or “The Piano Teacher” or “Bug”), but it isn’t here. The only thing that makes Chapman interesting in this film is the fact that he – almost incidentally – murdered a famous person.

 

            What’s more, everyone Chapman meets is unduly kind to him. A young Beatles fan named Jude (Lindsay Lohan) bothers to go out to eat with him, and a jaded paparazzo (Judah Friedlander) actually bothers to do Chapman favors. Their motivatins for helping this man seem unclear. Chapman is obviously unhinged. He doesn’t have the kind of functional mental illness that make him seem odd or quirky or even fun. No. He has the kind of alienating, off-putting behavior of a mad homeless drunk. Any semi-reasonable person would kick this guy out on his ear. The kindness Chapman encounters make “Chapter 27” frustrating as well as insufferable.

 

            If you’re a psychology student, see “Chapter 27” and write a paper on Mark David Chapman. If you’re an average moviegoer, just don’t see “Chapter 27.”

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Published in: on May 13, 2008 at 8:10 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I am a home-schooled self taught pyschology student (Frommian thought mostly with some Rollo May influence) and I have got to say that this is the best portrayal of a struggling artist that I’ve seen. The gentle acting of subtlety and nuance that Leto brought was awesome and Lohan is a Hollywood force to watch out for. Now, arguably some of the interior lighting was a bit uneven and again lighting in editing continuity was spotty–but aside from that this movie is pretty flawless. Great post, thanks!
    Ryan


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