Tuesday, February 06, 2007

With Enemies Like This, Who Needs Friends?

So much has been written about Chapter 27 since I posted “Critiquing the Critics,” I’ve pulled the sampling of reviews that originally appeared at the tail end of that piece (and that I was adding to every day) and I’ve posted them at the end of this piece—for the purpose of putting into perspective some of the events that have been swirling around the film since it premiered at Sundance two weeks ago.

The first Chapter 27 reviews to appear, with the notable exception of
the one in Salon, were negative in the extreme. Led by Roger Friedman of Fox News, they were the critical equivalent of a stomping and chain whipping administered by the Hell’s Angels. It seemed as if the bad reviews had opened an insurmountable lead. But then, spurred on by high-profile publicity about the Chapter 27 boycott—which created a backlash to the backlash—the film rallied in the second half. Critics writing for such magazines as Entertainment Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter liked it, and put Chapter 27 back in the game.

Of the 12 reviews I’ve discussed so far (including the excerpts and links to the 10 posted below, one of which does acknowledge the overlooked numerology angle), the score is as follows:
  • Thumbs Down: 8
  • Thumbs Up: 3
  • Thumbs Sideways: 1
In other words, though the bad reviews still hold a substantial lead, thanks to the Chapter 27 boycott, there’s a controversy brewing that’s keeping the film in the news, and that will—if I were to place a bet—lead to theatrical distribution.

The boycott publicity, in fact, was so well orchestrated that I began to wonder if Peace Arch Entertainment, the film’s producers, were funneling money to Boycottchapter27.org. If so, how much, and is there a reduced rate for independent journalists? Because if their prices aren’t too high, I’d like to hire them to organize a boycott of my next book. To steal a line from Hogan’s Heroes: “With enemies like this, who needs friends?”

One thing that both the critics and boycotters seem to be overlooking is that if the filmmakers have proven anything, it’s that they’re determined and probably a little crazy. And even if Jared Leto has to sit in a mailroom stuffing DVDs into envelopes, and Jarrett Schaefer has to type the address labels and seal the flaps with his personal spit, they’re going to find a way get Chapter 27 into the hands of its audience.

In any case, here are excerpts and links to 10 Chapter 27 reviews:

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly says: “The film may tell you little about Chapman that you didnt already know, but Jared Leto, who gained 65 pounds for the role, disappears inside this angry, mouthbreathing psycho geek with a conviction that had me hanging on his every delusion.”

Duane Byrge of The Hollywood Reporter says: “Jared Leto is mesmeric as the bloated, deranged Chapman. It’s a brilliantly measured performance, evincing the tale of a madman through his own awful rhyme and reason.”

Dennis Harvey of Variety says: “Chapter 27 peers into the mind of a real-life, insane killer and finds almost nothing of interest.”

Scott Weinberg of Cinematical.com says: “I know it has something to do with J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, but any other specifics are lost beneath waves of babble, tedium and pretense.”

Ty Burr of the Boston Globe says: Writer-director Jarrett Schaefer never convincingly explains the demons that drove Chapman. The result is an unpleasant act of cinematic rubbernecking that celebrates a deserved nonentity.

Kevin Polowy of Cinematical.com says: “Most of the ‘action’ takes place as Chapman waits and waits (and waits) for Lennon outside of his famous Dakota Building apartment in Manhattan, with an occasional argument between the voices in the assassins head to stir things up a bit.”

Nick Marshall of Cynematik says: “J. P. Schaeffer played it too safe.”

Comingsoon.net says: “Chapter 27 is worth seeing for Leto’s performance and the remarkable transformation that he went through to become Chapman, but the film isn’t that strong otherwise, and its slow, meandering pace tends to be its undoing.”

Eric D. Snider, who reports derisive audience laughter during at least one scene, writes on his blog: “There’s no insight, no analysis, nothing. Just Jared Leto talking to himself for 90 minutes.”

Jeremy Mathews, writing on Filmthreat.com, says: “Chapter 27 relies on the concept that following an insane person around for three days will provide you with great insight into his character. But if all the character in question does is make Catcher in the Rye references and speak in an annoying whisper that’s supposed to be sinister, it doesn’t really offer any insight into why he killed John Lennon.”


While we’re on the subject of reviews, here’s a link to a one about Nowhere Man that was published in the Fall 2006 issue of the Oakland University Journal. “Let Me Take You Down in a Cyn Sandwich: The Profoundly Paradoxical Mind of John Lennon,” by Brian Murphy, Emeritus Professor of English, compares Nowhere Man to six other Lennon books: Cynthia Lennon’s A Twist of Lennon and John, Yoko Ono’s Memories of John Lennon, Fred Seaman’s The Last Days of John Lennon, Elizabeth Partridge’s John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth, and Marion Winik’s Above Us Only Sky.

It’s a very good introduction to the ever-expanding genre of Lennon biographies.


Anonymous said...

So many things I would like to say, but I'll keep it civil. Your accusations of boycottchapter27.org receiving payments from Peace Arch are totally out of line.
Sorry your book hasn't seen the pages of the Daily News lately...LOL

Enjoy your blood money.

Robert Rosen said...

You guys are an inspiration. Keep up the good work.