Dir. J.P. Schaefer
Premiered at Sundance January 25, 2007
When first-time filmmaker J.P. Schaefer, Chapter 27 was a bold move, and bound to leave an impact. Inspired by a series of interviews with Mark David Chapman, the crazed fan who assassinated former Beatle John Lennon, the film attempts to find insight into the mind of one of recent history’s most famous assassins. There’s only one problem: if the movie is any indication, Mark David Chapman is not interesting.
It doesn’t help that Chapman is played by Jared Leto, the former teen heartthrob, erstwhile screamo frontman, and future notoriously pretentious Oscar-winner. With Leto in literally every scene, he has unlimited time to show off, playing Chapman in a croaking sing-song voice that recalls Eddie Redmayne in Jupiter Ascending as he embarks on a three-day jaunt to New York City to re-enact the plot of Catcher in the Rye, followed by meeting and killing John Lennon outside his apartment building. This is not Chapman’s first attempt to catch the man, and his obsession more-or-less conforms to Donald Glover’s assessment that crazy men always want to kill people they love in order to own them.
That’s a reasonable angle for the film to take, but it doesn’t justify the laser focus on Chapman, which creates other problems as well. Aside from a fellow fan with oddly clunky dialogue (Lindsay Lohan) and a curiously self-aware paparazzo (Judah Friedlander), the film consists almost entirely of endless, repetitive monologues by Chapman, intercut with stock footage and non-sequitur bits of other scenes in a vain attempt to hide the fact that there’s nothing to look at. Undermining his own ambitions as a screenwriter and a director, J.P. Schaefer seems to think that the mere idea of a film about Mark David Chapman would be interesting in itself, and accordingly comes off as smug and lazy.
Signs This Was Made in 2007
The involvement of Lindsay Lohan. In the mid-2000s, she was everywhere, making a huge effort to escape her child-actress fame and take on more diverse roles, such as this and Robert Altman’s swan song A Prairie Home Companion. By the end of 2007, she would be a national punchline. We’ll get to how that happened later, but it’s relevant to this review because…
How Did It Do?
Chapter 27 wasn’t released in commercial theaters until March 2008, after getting mostly disastrous reviews in the festival circuit (18% fresh on RottenTomatoes), and long after Lohan’s modest involvement had become a liability. In a rare instance of a movie being distributed independently as well as produced independently, Canadian outfit Peace Arch Entertainment released the film into just 11 theaters, making less than $200,000 globally. Peace Arch went under in 2013, and J.P. Schaefer never directed another film.
Next Time: Epic Movie