Chapter 27 Movie Review 

R, 84 min, 2007

Director: J.P. Schaefer

Writers: J.P. Schaefer, Jack Jones (book Let Me Take You Down)
Stars: Chuck Cooper, Lindsay Lohan, Victor Verhaeghe

J.P. Schaefer’s Chapter 27 is a would-be fascinating take on the demented mind of a murderer, which ultimately fails to shed a scintilla of light on its subject.

Mark David Chapman (an almost unrecognizably overweight Jared Leto, from Requiem for a Dream and TV’s My So-Called Life) was a pale, heavy-set loner who arrived in New York City claiming to be a Beatles fan from Hawaii who just wanted John Lennon’s autograph. Fair enough. Except for that he was in fact a complete creep with an apparent obsession with Lennon and with J.D. Salinger’s much-beloved and (perhaps?) forever tarnished novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” with which Chapman so apparently identified. In particular, he saw himself as being very similar to the hero of that book, Holden Caulfield, who goes to New York to “in a sense, find himself” (just like Chapman) and ends up in a mental hospital narrating the story to the reader (just as Chapman does in this film).

The book (as yet unread by me) ends at Chapter 26, so of course Chapman saw his life and the murder he committed (of Lennon, on my mother’s birthday: December 8, 1980) as a sort of unofficial “Chapter 27.” Along the way, he meets a slightly better-adjusted fan named Jude (Lindsay Lohan), a dark-haired gal who must have some sort of masochistic streak if she sticks around during Chapman’s ramblings and rather creepy hints at his darker nature, and there’s Paul (Judah Friedlander), a photographer who makes a living selling not-so-candid pictures of celebrities to people.

J.P. Schaefer, who wrote and directed, based his film on a book by Jack Jones, which itself was based on interviews with Chapman published in 1992. Much of the film has a sort of shiftless but unsettling tone, complete with Taxi Driver-esque interior monologues and rants; we know what Chapman did and there are flashes here and there (perhaps his imagination beforehand) of his crime, but we just watch him, raging below the surface.

Jared Leto, who gained much weight for the role, seems to embody Chapman fully – he is overweight, heavily clothed, and immensely creepy. Unfortunately, Schaefer and Jones could only guess at Chapman’s motives as he himself knew nothing of why he did what he did – not exactly. Thus, we end up where we started, more or less, with a sick man staring us in the face, talking in a low, soft voice, and trying to make us care about his reasons – whatever they may have been. Not unlike the superior Miguel Arteta-Mike White collaboration Chuck & Buck (2000), it is a little like spending 84 minutes with bugs crawling under your skin.

Note: The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival with a 100 minute running time.


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Filed under 2008

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