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Lennon Naked (DVD)
Director Edmund Coulthard and writer Robert Jones teamed up to tackle this entertaining yet sensational account of John Lennon's life, Lennon Naked, which aired on the BBC and in Japan before making its way to America. This fictionalized biography takes up subject matter surrounding Lennon's thorny relationship with his alcoholic father, Freddie Lennon (Christopher Fairbank), and attempts to psychoanalyze Lennon's life decisions, up to his leaving the Beatles and teaming up with Yoko Ono (Naoko Mori), based on his childhood dramas. The feature is all about Christopher Eccleston taking on the incredible difficulty of acting the part of such a recognizable icon. He does this in stride, exuding a confidence, indeed a stubbornness that this film's John Lennon succeeds and suffers with. In any biographical story, it's a danger to assume that the viewer comes away knowing a celebrity any better than before, and Lennon Naked offers such a presumably intimate take on Lennon's personal life that it frequently oversteps the bounds of respectability. For example, after Lennon, in the film, dabbles with drugs and glimpses Yoko, it ties his abandonment of his steadfast but dull, suburban wife, Cynthia Lennon (Claudie Blakley), to his abandonment by his father. Every time, in the film, Lennon leaves someone or is left, flashbacks to his childhood in which his dad bids him adieu on some British pier with balloons wafting into the sky heavy-handedly drive the connection points home. If one can ignore sentimentality like this, one can enjoy the uncanny capabilities of the actors playing the other Beatles, Paul McCartney (Andrew Scott), Ringo Starr (Craig Cheetham), and George Harrison (Jack Morgan), and early on, Brian Epstein (Rory Kinnear), during press meetings or warding off girls in the grips of Beatlemania. Sequenced chronologically, Lennon Naked begins right before Epstein's death and takes one through Lennon's leaving London for New York. As years flash by, actual vintage footage of the Beatles and of Lennon commingle with the fictional biopic, adding greatly to its credibility. However, be warned: Lennon Naked is sheer entertainment, not documentary. It's odd to think of an actual person's life providing fodder for fictional narrative, but when it's done well, it can make for some satisfactory viewing to quench die-hard fans who miss this beloved and very talented man who lived in the public eye. --Trinie Dalton
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
But, as evidenced by hours upon hours of audio and video footage, Lennon was an interesting, good humored, intensely creative person. None of that is portrayed in Lennon Naked. The film chooses to focus exclusively on the most depressing, least flattering aspects of Lennon's personality. We don't see him writing songs, playing guitar, or recording music.
The basic "plot" finds Lennon dealing with his father, who abandoned him as a child, returning to his life. After years of not seeing him, Freddie Lennon tries to re-establish a relationship with his son. The results are mixed, as Lennon hasn't forgiven him. During all of this, we see that Lennon treats his own son Julian roughly the same way.
I loved Christopher Eccleston as Doctor Who. Not only is he laughably old to be playing Lennon as 20something man (Eccleston is 46, six years older than Lennon at the time of his death), he looks nothing like him. He does a passable vocal impersonation but otherwise does very little to evoke Lennon.
Some scenes reenact press conferences that the real actual footage of is readily available (in far worthier films like the 1988 documentary "Imagine: John Lennon"). In all cases, the actual footage is FAR more compelling than the staged versions. In other words, with so many documentary films existing about Lennon there is little reason to bother with this sad movie.
For me, the primary reason for watching "Lennon Naked" is Christopher Eccleston's uncompromising performance (even if he's a bit old at the outset). Never does the screenplay try to endear us to Lennon or soften his edges. I found that to be the most refreshing aspect of the picture. Eccleston has literally and figuratively stripped down Lennon and presents us with a man very difficult to like, and in doing so has created something that feels very real. Ultimately, though, your appreciation with "Lennon Naked" will be determined by your expectations. There is surprisingly little actual biography--just snippets of a life lived. This is a character piece in which Lennon systematically pushes everyone away from him with a standoffishness that is surprisingly candid. It is the self-indulgent artist versus the world, at least until Yoko shows up. The film eventually tries to explain some of Lennon's emotional disconnect, which results in arguably the finest dramatic scene, but can be summed up rather tritely as "daddy issues."
In truth, I didn't love "Lennon Naked," but I did admire it. There is no doubt that Lennon was a visionary and a genius, but this film barely hints at the talent that made him unique. Without any real glimpse of the artistic Lennon, the unpleasantness of a man who continually alienates the most important people in his life can seem a bit one-note. At 90 minutes, there's only so much this BBC production could cover--but it's so unrepentantly bleak. I wanted more time to see a fully rounded Lennon. As a psychological portrait, which is the primary goal of "Lennon Naked," I ultimately wanted something more in-depth. The emotional payoff didn't offer enough dividends for me and I ended up slightly disconnected from the film. KGHarris, 11/10.
And the script...think of all the overtold Lennon stories and lines we already know, and they are here.
Poor John, impersonated by an actor for whom subtlety is rocket science and finesse the name of a French salad. When I think of the fine humor, the tastefulness, the wry irony, and the elegance in Lennon, I find it appalling to see how underprepared and unperceptive the people behind this movie were. Here, Lennon strolls around like a dolt who is going through the shock of having his first idea. Surely he deserves better.
I have no beef with the flick presenting Lennon's nastier side, just don't rob people of their time with such lousy product.
On the other hand, it may be worth a viewing just for the laughs...or the horror.
As another reviewer writes here, to me and what I know of John and his life, public and private, he was a complicated person, full of extremes. His talent and intelligence was unquestionable. His emotional side ran the gamete from nasty and very self-involved to very loving and giving of himself. He was, or acted like he was a little crazy. True artists, musicians and actors are often eccentric and self-absorbed. It seems go with the territory.
We know from all the other media about his life that John was not perfect but I think like many of us, he strove to be... to give something back. He was VERY human, and his life, by choice as well as not, has been well documented on film (home movies as well as professional footage,) books and interviews of those that knew him best!
So why would we need a semi-fictional biopic of this nature unless it had to do with money? Why was this film necessary for the director and producers to produce?
Upon reflection, I wonder what the purpose really was in making this film? Was this made in search of a new artistic angle in which to view Lennon's life, or in search of money? Did the film makers have a contractual necessity to make it? Were they behind the 8-ball and had to produce something the BBC could promote? I have to keep asking myself, what was the intention? What was the point?