John Lennon’s murder in 1980 traumatized a generation of Beatles lovers, and the infuriating senselessness of it all resulted in a disproportionate amount of rage being directed at the killer, Mark David Chapman. With the other major assassinations of the Baby Boomer generation you could at least see why someone would disagree with the man enough to want him dead. But why would anyone want to kill John Lennon? Why? Yoko, sure. But why John???
An intense exploration into Chapman’s mind might bring some closure to those still in mourning by helping them understand what he was thinking. But “Chapter 27” manages to be entirely about Mark David Chapman without saying a single insightful thing about him. It fails to pass the “Why are we watching this?” test. What’s the point, that there is no explanation for Chapman’s actions? That no matter how much you dissect it, it will always be a pointless act? The point of the movie is that there’s no point? Well, that’s awesome, but no thank you.
Written and directed by first-time filmmaker J.P. Schaefer (adapting Jack Jones’ book “Let Me Take You Down”), “Chapter 27” takes its title from Chapman’s obsession with “Catcher in the Rye,” which has 26 chapters. Chapman, played here by a fattened-up Jared Leto, wants to be Holden Caulfield and write an extra chapter to Holden’s story — a chapter where, I guess, Holden is a greasy fat loser who thinks John Lennon is a phony.
The film takes us on a wearying, tedious journey through the last few days before Chapman shoots Lennon, telling us nothing about anything in the process. Here is the entire plot: Chapman goes to New York, hangs around, kills a Beatle. The end. Sorry for the spoilers.
Chapman quotes “Catcher in the Rye” a lot and adopts Holden Caulfield’s hatred of “phonies.” Chapman himself lies quite a bit, though, which makes him a contradiction, albeit not an interesting one. He also idolizes Lennon while simultaneously hating him — again, a potentially intriguing facet, wholly unexploited here.
I’ve never heard Mark David Chapman speak, so for all I know Leto’s impersonation of him is accurate. But here’s what Leto sounds like to me: Imagine a combination of Winnie-the-Pooh, the old pedophile on “Family Guy,” Towelie on “South Park,” and Truman Capote. His voice is whispery and effeminate, deeply Southern, and 100 percent hilarious. The fact that he says nothing of value (despite talking constantly) only adds to the absurdity.
Chapman spends much of his time in the film hanging around outside Lennon’s building with the other fans and stalkers, and his interactions with a photographer (Judah Friedlander) and a Beatles lover named Jude (GET IT??????), played by a pre-meltdown Lindsay Lohan, are mildly diverting for a minute or two; mostly they serve to break up the monotony of an otherwise listless film.
I made a note of something Jude says in discussing “Rosemary’s Baby” with Chapman: “It’s slow-moving, and nothing happens until the end.” I find it hard to believe that Schaefer included that line without recognizing the irony. No one could be that clueless.
D- (1 hr., 25 min.; )