A combination of controversial subject matter and the physical transformation of Jared Leto garnered this film considerable attention (positive and negative). Leto here morphs into an uncannily accurate physical recreation of Mark David Chapman. The film follows Chapman on his fateful trip to New York City. Over the course of three days, he hangs around outside John Lennon’s home, becomes friendly with fellow fan Lindsay Lohan, and endlessly ruminates about how the events in his life are paralleling The Catcher in the Rye, and (rather less explicitly) why he’s going to kill Lennon.
Leto is unrecognizable, and disappears completely into the role. But is the film a good one? It is somewhat limited by the fact that nothing much happened during Chapman’s stay in NYC prior to the murder, and so nothing much happens here, either, beyond Chapman acting so obviously insane it’s a wonder no one had him locked up within minutes of arrival. Does the film give us some insight into the mind of the killer? Only a little. It hints at motivation, but those hints are only really clear if you’re already pretty familiar with the case. In other words, the picture doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It’s a striking work, but not an altogether successful one.
If the film doesn’t plunge is into the mind of a killer, at least not in a useful way, that’s no fault of the score. Leto’s narration (a questionable device, but there it is, all the same) resonates from all sides, making the sensation a very intimate one, even if said sensation is a false one. The environmental effects, then, are solid. Dialogue is crisp, clear, and distortion free. The score is handled well, too (and no, there are no Beatles or Lennon songs playing, except indirectly – Lohan’s character is named Jude, which leads to the inevitable weak joke not once but twice, just in case we’d missed it the first time).
Pre-clean-up NYC is lovingly recreated, and the transfer has an appropriately grey, chilly, wintry look. Every pore of Leto’s face is disturbingly rendered. The flesh tones, though (deliberately) drab (most of the film takes place at night or in overcast conditions) are very naturalistic. Grain and edge enhancement are not problems. To sum up, then, this is a very able transfer, perfectly capturing the qualities of the print. Grey as the look of the movie is, it is never murky.
Not too much going on here. There’s a making-of featurette that is suitably solemn in tone, but is nevertheless no different from a million other promo pieces out there. And that’s that.
An interesting film, at least at first blush, but one that in the end contributes very little understanding about its subject matter.