Chapter 27 (2008), or I Just Believe In Me

17 05 2009

I’m back, everyone! Jump into my arms and embrace me like a long lost lover. It’s been so long, so let’s cut the shit and get back to work! Today’s film was generally regarded as a steaming pile of cinematic posing and lackluster talent. Chapter 27, aka That Jared Leto Movie Where He Gained A Lot Of Flab To Portray A Normal Human Being And Where Lindsay Lohan Is In It For, Like, Five Minutes is about John Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, and the odyssey he takes during the three days prior to his dirty deed. It is an uncomfortable, dread-filled journey through one man’s disjointed and disturbed world view, and although there were some artistic choices that I disagreed with, I certainly believe it has some merit beyond being a typical celebrity vehicle.

The schizophrenic Texan’s last days as a free man are chronicled with a mix of sympathy, condemnation, and profound confusion; much like the man himself views the events from hindsight, I’m sure. We see how hard the Big Apple is on the ugly and the lonely, but we also see how judgmental and rash a man on the edge can be. We see how badly he wants somebody to talk him out of committing such an act, but we also see someone who wants to see the world rid of one less “phony”, rabid and angry like a junkyard dog. And throughout the picture, we see how art imitates life, and how Chapman’s infatuation with the lonely martyr Holden Caulfield from The Catcher In The Rye made him a friendless renegade who sacrificed himself and one of music’s greatest icons for a cause that he himself seemed conflicted about.

It’s a competently put together picture, and while the subject matter seems a bit gimmicky and forced at times, it’s a very evocative topic that is handled tastefully and stays away from the border of exploitation. John Lennon was a man who incited so many emotions in people, that it was almost no wonder some people became knotted up and confused in their relationship with his music and art. Chapman took things to an extreme, but Chapman was an extreme individual it seems, though one would never know it but for one or two moments in his entire life.

Jared Leto plays the deranged killer like he plays any other character; like Jared Leto playing someone else. I don’t see his performance as spectacular, but it’s actually not so bad. The weight transformation he underwent was a success, and he inhabits the creepy corpulent skin of a murderer with a lot of vim and vigor. He gets the voice down pretty good, too, and sometimes I almost (almost) forget he’s such a pretty-boy. He really seems at ease with the darkness of a life spent alone, and I found myself taken at times with his ability to wear that burden so well.

Director J.P. Schaefer hit and missed a few here. The tone hit all the right emotional notes, and he knows where to point the camera for some great effects. But the score of the film ended up being a distraction from the perfect silence and loneliness of Chapman’s lost weekend. It was mediocre and unnecessary, and I would have preferred silence to enjoy the journey with. I feel the same way about the extraneous narration. It’s jarring to hear what he’s thinking in contrast to the film. You’re not expecting to hear it, and when you do, you’re not expecting to hear it so much. A few words here and there, but they really over-estimated how much I wanted to hear him explain himself. If they really wanted to get me, I would have loved to see this movie with a much lighter soundtrack and 60% less narration.

The cast and crew obviously did a lot of research on the subject, and their great care and intent is shown throughout the movie like a boy carrying a bird with a broken wing. It’s endearing, but what does it all mean? If a movie doesn’t want to answer any questions, why so much emotional music and over-bearing voice-overs? Who knows? Just like Chapman himself, we’ll never know the reasons for these things. Sometimes people just make mistakes, and while Chapter 27 ponders a great game, it seeks to find more than there is, and we are left thinking that perhaps less would have been a whole lot more. All in all, I give it 6 fat Jared Letos out of 10.

Tomorrow I enjoy myself with a little foreign drama, where I’ll watch Contempt!