This writer has a number of issues with Andrew Piddington’s mostly stylish and allegedly accurate reconstruction of the days leading up to Mark Chapman’s murder of John Lennon. It’s a little too long, for a start, and occasionally bogged down by a surfeit of psychedelic dream sequences and repeated scenes. The title, too, is sensationalist, while the date of release – timed to coincide with the 27th anniversary of the Beatle’s death on December 8, 1980 – smacks of cynicism. Despite a conscience that was telling me ‘no’, I felt compelled to see this film as an avid Beatles and Lennon fan, if only to understand the machinations within Chapman’s dysfunctional mind. After 114 minutes of uncomfortable voyeurism, I was none the wiser.
There’s very little historical context. Instead, it kicks off only a few weeks earlier in Hawaii where the narcissistic creep (played convincingly by Jonas Ball) first stumbles upon JD Salinger’s novel, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, and finds himself at one with the book’s angst-ridden, teenage protagonist, Holden Caulfield. Later, Chapman discovers a book on Lennon and comes to the decision that the singer was, using the phraseology of Caulfield, a hypocritical phoney. Taking Lennon’s lyrics (presumably those in the songs ‘Imagine’ and ‘God’) a little too literally, he buys a gun, leaves his meek wife and detached mother, and flies to New York where he performs a dry run before hitting the world headlines. After many unanswered questions put by prison psychologists, we’re left with at least one feasible deduction: Chapman was on a simple, skewed quest for infamy. And he got it. One gathers he’d be chuffed to see this film. And that’s the biggest issue of all.