A haunting look at the mental collapse of Mark David Chapman in the days leading up to the murder of legendary musician John Lennon. Jared Leto stars as the man whose awe of Lennon and unrelenting drive to achieve infamy pushed him to pull the trigger on the former Beatle.
•To get my new site rolling, I’ve taken the liberty of copying a couple of reviews from my archives, just incase anyone thinks I’m plagiarizing work. This review was originally posted on headinavice in February 2013•
Chapter 27 is a 2007 biographical film depicting the murder of John Lennon by Mark David Chapman (Jared Leto). The film is based on the book Let Me Take You Down by Jack Jones. It deals almost wholly with the actions of Mark Chapman during the three days before his murder of Lennon. It takes place in December 1980, and is intended to be an exploration of Chapman’s psyche.
On December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman shocked the world by murdering 40-year old musician and activist, John Lennon, outside The Dakota, his New York apartment building. Since I am a little too young to have witnessed The Beatles in their prime and the aftermath, I had to do a little research before and after I watched Chapter 27. I actually saw it years ago but really felt I was missing a lot of the references to the 1951 novel Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger which is mentioned throughout the film and actually what the title refers to. I was determined to watch it again at some point and have finally got round to it. I finished Catcher in the Rye a few months ago and having now seen the film again it does make a lot more sense.
We spend a lot of the film watching Chapman waiting outside The Dakota in the hope of catching a glimpse of Lennon. Whilst waiting he meets Jude, a young fan played by Lindsay Lohan. A little while later he meets Jude’s friend Paul, a paparazzi photographer played here by Judah Friedlander. According to the IMDb trivia page, the character of Paul is based on the photographer Paul Goresh, who photographed John Lennon signing an autograph for Mark David Chapman.
Chapman is seen interacting with a few other people, more often than not the hotel workers, but that’s pretty much it as far as action and locations go. We do get to see Chapman go a little Taxi Driver-esque with a gun in his hotel room but this is very much a slow burn study of one mans psyche. Chapman’s motives were fabricated from pure delusion, fueled by an obsession with the fictional character Holden Caulfield and his similar misadventures in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. The way Chapman speaks, such as referring to things as ‘phoney‘, his mannerisms and quirks are straight out of the novel. Obviously this is just one movie based on one book and there are probably hundreds of other interpretations of the motives and mental state of Chapman.
Mark David Chapman was obsessed with the novel Catcher in the Rye and, in fact, was carrying it when he shot John Lennon. Salinger’s novel has 26 chapters. The title of the movie Chapter 27 suggests a continuation of the novel and Chapman’s attempt to model his own life after the book’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield. According to Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon (2000) by New York journalist Robert Rosen, it was Chapman’s goal to write Chapter 27 in Lennon’s blood. Rosen also explores the numerological meaning of the number 27 or “triple 9”, a number in which Lennon professed to have a deep interest.
Jared Leto’s performance as Chapman is incredible. Whatever people’s opinions are on the film (it received a few campaigns to try and stop its release, from Lennon fans not wanting Chapman to be glorified in a film, right down to Yoko Ono criticising it), Leto’s dedication to playing this part deserved the praise he received. As the photos in this review show, the effort he made to be as convincing in the part as possible are extraordinary. He gained 67 pounds (30 kg) by drinking microwaved pints of ice cream mixed with soy sauce and olive oil every night to try and complete the Chapman look. I think you will agree he definitely managed this. Such was his dedication he had to use a wheelchair due to the stress of the sudden increase in weight put on his body.
Chapman is shown as having a restless mind. His actions and mood during the film changes uncontrollably between paranoia, sociopathic lying and delusion. He lies to cab drivers (identifying himself as The Beatles’ sound engineer) and displays socially unacceptable behavior to the people he meets outside The Dakota. Leto perfectly portrays a man who has all these strange tendencies and he keeps the psychoses bubbling below the surface as his grasp on reality deteriorates into a completely misguided rage.
Lindsay Lohan only has a small role but I thought she was fine, nothing spectacular but she came across as a sweet-natured girl who only tried to be friendly with Chapman. People have a real strong dislike for Lohan but in Chapter 27 she played her part well and does not let herself or the film down. Visually the movie looked good, but a lot of criticism has been aimed at the hotel looking like new, whereas in 1980 it was apparently run down. This aside, we don’t get to see much of New York so there was nothing else really visually going on. No blood or gore on show here, even the killing of Lennon at the end is more of a powerful scene where we just watch Chapman fire the gun and hear the screams, rather than focus in on or glorify Lennon’s death.
In closing, Chapter 27 is an interesting piece of cinema that I feel will be appreciated more by Beatles and John Lennon fans, or maybe those who have read Salinger’s novel. I’m not saying you will agree with what is shown, and some people may boycott the film out of sheer hatred towards what Chapman did. If anything it makes for an interesting character study and as a reader of the Catcher in the Rye it was interesting to see how seriously one man took that book and what he was willing to do. I would have liked the film to delve a little deeper into the mind of the killer, but other books have done this and Chapter 27 even begins with a narration from Chapman (Leto) saying this is not the time or place to do that. It is strictly the events of those fateful 3 days.