For those of you guys who used to watch My So Called Life back in the day and at some point thought, “Damn, I hate that Jared Leto kid. All the chicks dig him. I wish he would get fat and become a loser," here you go. In his latest movie, Chapter 27, Leto gets fat and explores his inner crazy, all while speaking in a strangely stilted southern accent. Although the movie has a few great moments, it doesn’t really go anywhere.
Chapter 27 tracks Mark Chapman (Leto) in the three days leading up to the day he assassinates John Lennon (Mark Lindsay Chapman). We watch him obsess over The Catcher in the Rye, squander his chances with Lindsey Lohan, and fondle his gun. But, nothing really happens. The bulk of the movie is shot outside of the Dakota hotel, as Chapman waits for Lennon. Many of the scenes are just shots of standing around. At the end of the movie, director J.P. Shaefer captures the scene in which Chapman shoots Lennon extremely well. It’s very subtle. However, the story and scenes leading up to that moment are mostly stagnant. This movie is not informational; it is meant to be a moody performance driven meanderer.
Annoying accent aside, Leto’s acting is quite good and he shines brightest in the scenes he shares with costars Lindsay Lohan and Judah Friedlander. Leto wholly inhabits his heavier frame (he gained approximately 60 lbs for the part). He slouches and pulls his head back to accentuate his enormous double chin. Although I found his voice to be unbearable to listen to, there is no question that he nails the part that was written for him. Turns out Jared Leto can act; who knew?
The script is what drives the movie, as most of the movie is overlaid by Chapman’s monologues. Although, there are a few great lines, like: “I’m too vulnerable for a world full of pain and lies and loneliness,” it is generally patchy. His inner monologues portray a sweet man that is mostly harmless and truly obsessed with The Catcher in the Rye. The title of the movie refers to his obsession with this book. The only evidence of his dangerous neediness is in a few creepy lines. Any and all indications that his madness is building are only spoken in voice over, not cinematized. The pace of the movie is monotone.
In the end, the movie tries to be meaningful, by showing actors being interviewed about John Lennon after he was killed. It is just too little too late. The movie could have truly benefited from some The Queen-style editing. Shaefer focuses more on humanizing his killer than mourning the loss of John Lennon.
If you can get used to Leto’s fake accent, Chapter 27 might be worth renting, but there is a reason it has become the pariah of the film industry: the topic may or may not be worth making a movie about. It might even be too soon after Lennon’s death to make it. To have the thrust of the movie be about proving Chapman as a sympathetic character is just a question of poor taste on the part of the writer/director. After all, Mark Chapman did slay a man that was pivotal to a building movement towards peace. That seems pretty evil, if you ask me.
The disc, overall, is quite sparse. There are some pretty compelling previews for some IFC films, but nothing else. There are no special features whatsoever.
One noteworthy detail about the quality of this disc is the sound mixing. The voice over is crystal clear - a little too crystal clear, if you ask me. It has the disembodied sound that only a person speaking directly into a microphone, purposefully, can produce. Although I couldn’t stand the sound of Leto’s put-on accent, the rhythm of it does come across like a long poetry reading, which is pretty inventive.
The score of the movie is quite peculiar. The happy, simplistic, upbeat music goes along with Chapman as he approaches the Dakota for the first time, as if this is a happy moment. The sad, solemn, music follows him as he eats, or is alone in his room. Because there is little to no music, it comes off as odd, which resulted in pulling me out of the movie a bit.