by Jef Burnham
Airing on Masterpiece Contemporary Sunday, November 21, 2010 at 9pm ET on PBS. Also coming to DVD on November 23, 2010 from the BBC.
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Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who, 28 Days Later) stars as John Lennon in this ultimately overly-ambitious drama, tracing Lennon’s private life from the height of the Fab Four’s fame in 1964 through his self-imposed exile to America in 1971. Eccleston delivers a terrific performance with a Lennon that is guarded and insular yet curiously candid in the way that anyone who has ever seen Lennon in interview will recognize immediately. Naoko Mori (Torchwood) is equally terrific in her understated performance as Yoko Ono.
However, despite the brilliant efforts on the part of the film’s two leads, Lennon Naked is an incredibly dull film. The narrative attempts to cover too much, and fails to focus on anything long enough for us to become truly invested. Moreover, very little actually happens on screen. Most of the major events of the film are merely discussed by the characters after the fact with no actual coverage of the event itself, lest the filmmakers had quality archival footage at their disposal. Other troublesome elements include awkward soundtrack cues; the arbitrarily black and white opening sequence; and the casting of Andrew Scott as Paul McCartney, who, although fine in the role, doesn’t even remotely resemble McCartney— something of a necessity in such a small role I should think— except from one very specific angle, and even then only vaguely. Ultimately, it seems, the filmmakers must have thought the viewers’ existing appreciation of/affection for John Lennon would be enough to carry the film so long as they cast a strong lead.
The bottom line is that only those with the greatest devotion to Lennon or the cast ought to dedicate their time to Lennon Naked. Everyone else would be better served by surrendering their hour and a half to the conversation with John and Yoko on The Dick Cavett Show from September 11, 1971 (which is currently available on DVD from Shout! Factory).
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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