Was this Lennon the man?
Lennon Naked (DVD)
Member Name: GentleGenius
Lennon Naked (DVD)
Date: 15/07/12, updated on 15/07/12 (64 review reads)
Advantages: Some good acting, valuable old Beatles' footage, good music
Disadvantages: Some horrendous acting, some actors ill-cast, questionable authenticity/accuracy levels
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 82 mins
DIRECTOR: Edmund Coulthard
PRODUCER: Edmund Coulthard & Katherine Lannon
SCREENPLAY: Robert Jones
MUSIC: Dickon Hinchcliffe, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix
Christopher Eccleston as John Lennon
Naoko Miro as Yoko Ono
Claudie Blakley as Cynthia Lennon
Rory Kinnear as Brian Epstein
Christopher Fairbank as Freddie Lennon
Allan Corduner as Art Janov
Michael Colgan as Derek Taylor
Andrew Scott as Paul McCartney
Jack Morgan as George Harrison
Craig Cheetham as Ringo Starr
Adrian Bower as Pete Shotton
FILM ONLY REVIEW
The film begins with Brian Epstein accompanying John Lennon on a visit to his father, who he hadn't seen for 17 years. John is reluctant and apprehensive, and the meeting when it happens is caustic, ending up with John and Brian leaving, with John taunting Brian about his homosexuality.
As the film progresses, we are taken through the latter portion of various parts of The Beatles' career, with the focus on Lennon's stance in the proceedings.
The remainder, which follows the basic Lennon story as we all know it, takes his life up to 1971 when he and Yoko Ono emigrate to New York, never setting foot inside of England again.
I decided to watch Lennon Naked with some reservations, yet with a curiosity as to how the man's life would be depicted via a semi-fictitious storyline. At the beginning of the film before the opening credits roll, a notice appears to say that although it is based on life events, some scenes are the invention of the writer.
Firstly, although throughout the film he most certainly was given the right style of clothes to wear, Christopher Eccleston bore little resemblance to Lennon himself, despite obvious efforts to make him look like the man. However, from certain angles, and especially during the later part of the film where John had grown his hair longer, there was a moderately passable likeness so long as the camera didn't focus full onto the actor's face. As far as Eccleston's imitation of Lennon's accent and voice is concerned, he tries his best but for the most part succeeds in sounding more like Ringo Starr!
However, Christopher Eccleston's acting, taken as it stands, I feel to have been rather admirable as this surely must have been quite a difficult role to play and he did put an awful lot into it.
As far as the other actors are concerned, I feel that everybody was cast very badly from the aspect of resemblance. Although I have in my list above included George Harrison and Ringo Star as main characters, their parts in the film are so minimal, that it is impossible to judge how good or otherwise those who acted them were. I feel that Andrew Scott was absolutely dreadful as Paul McCartney. I can appreciate that he was attempting to imitate Paul's wide-eyed look, his rather droning, disinterested speaking voice and his propensity for talking in almost abstract riddles, but I'm afraid this performance didn't convince me in the slightest.
Rory Kinnear bore no facial resemblance whatsoever to Brian Epstein, but I'm unable to comment on the merit of his performance regarding his personality, as although I do remember seeing newsreels where Epstein was being interviewed, those memory snippets of mine are too brief and patchy for me to make an accurate judgment on Rory Kinnear's acting prowess in this role.
Adrian Bower as Pete Shotton, one of Lennon's lifelong friends, began on shaky ground as I find it hard to believe that Lennon would admire somebody who was one atom short of fawning, but as the film progressed, he (Bower as Shotton) did appear to develop a bit more grit in his role. However, I still wasn't overly impressed.
Naoko Miro wasn't too bad as Yoko Ono and she did manage to speak in the way that Ono is notorious for, but she bore absolutely no resemblance at all to the real Yoko. I accept it is quite likely very difficult to find actors who match real characters to a tee, but in this case Naoko Miro's resemblance to Yoko was far too remote, and that in itself rendered her role not very believable, despite other aspects of her performance being at least moderately convincing.
For me, the worst characterisation was Claudie Blakley as Cynthia Lennon, John's first wife. I'm not criticising Claudie's acting abilities as in herself she was OK...more that she bears absolutely no physical resemblance whatsoever to Cynthia Lennon. Also, Cynthia Lennon herself spoke and still does speak completely differently to how Claudie plays her in Lennon Naked. Claudie's voice in the film is far too harsh....whereas Cynthia's is quite soft, with a definite but very much gentler Liverpool accent than is portrayed in this film.
Aside from Christopher Eccleston, my favourite actor was Christopher Fairbank as Freddie Lennon. Such could be due to me having no idea as to how the real Freddie Lennon looked or behaved, so I was able to view Fairbank's role with a clean slate and without prejudice. He played the part really well though, coming across during his few meetings with John, pretty close to how I'd imagine the real man to be from various things I've read about him and from interviews with John Lennon I've seen where he spoke candidly and frankly about his estranged father. The only question mark which does hang over my head regarding Fairbank's input - and it's more to do with how the direction/production team concentrated on accuracy rather than his performance (or didn't, as the case may be) - is that I possibly wrongly believe Lennon's actual father could have spoken with an Irish accent, whereas in this film he speaks with a Liverpool accent.
There is some very decent actual Beatles' footage in Lennon Naked, some of which I'd never seen before and some of which I've not seen since the 1960s, taken from things such as newsreels from the time. That part of the film I enjoyed very much, together of course with the backdrop of late period Beatles' music.
It isn't easy to take Lennon Naked too seriously despite it being a very serious film, because it is obvious that large swathes of the dialogue have been created by the screenplay writer. After all, who really knows what people said to one another behind closed doors, other than those present....and quite a few of those people are long dead, so to have consulted them for accuracy would be an impossible task. However, and using my own....possibly inaccurate....judgment, I'd hazard a guess that quite a chunk of John Lennon's input into various conversations had (in the film of course) with various different people, may not quite hit the nail on the head, because I personally feel that Lennon's thought patterns largely were coming from a different place.
There was one part towards the end of the film that for personal reasons, I actually found very moving and quite difficult to watch....this part arising from Lennon's experience with primal therapy. I've always felt a slight affinity with the actual character of the real man Lennon, simply because I believe I can understand where his caustic anger came from. I don't want to go into too much detail as this is a review, not a comparison between John Lennon's childhood experiences and my own, but it was that which made this particular part of the film so moving for me.
I really don't want to quite slate this film to bits, because it appears to me that a lot of effort was put into it, with both Christopher Eccleston and Christopher Fairbank stealing the show as Lennon and his father. There are gaping holes though, as I've mentioned above, whereby most of the actors bore no resemblance to the real people they were supposed to be playing, plus the dire portrayal of Paul McCartney, which is so bad it is almost tragic. I also don't want to cast a downer upon something which contains some brief, but very nostalgically valuable old Beatles' footage, plus of course their music.
It has to be said that this film solely concentrates on a small portion of John Lennon's life, and doesn't give a potted history spanning the day he pushed himself into this world until the fateful day of his 1980 assassination. The film begins in about 1967, just prior to Brian Epstein's suicide, and ends in 1971, although one or two important aspects of Lennon's childhood come into play.
Although I quite enjoyed Lennon Naked, I don't think I'll watch it again and I think I'll stick to Imagine each time I want to indulge in some Lennon/Beatles nostalgia, because that isn't a fictitious, acted story...it's reality, and totally comprised of old Beatles and Lennon film footage. I wasn't keen on the focus of the Lennon Naked and how it seemed to show Lennon in a light that I feel may not be as accurate as most people would like.
I'd guess that to gain maximum enjoyment from Lennon Naked, it's probably best to detach yourself from the concept of it being about John Lennon and his relationship with his father, Yoko Ono plus a few other individuals, then to watch the film as if it were simply about a man....not necessarily Lennon....and imagine it's completely fictitious. That way, I believe any viewer would easily be able to resist the temptation to compare it to John Lennon the man as they remember him, and concentrate on the film simply as it stands.
On a lighter note, and without intending to cast any aspersions on Christopher Eccleston's quite brave performance as John Lennon, I do wonder if anybody had thought of approaching Julian Lennon, John's older son, to play the role? At least he looks enough like his father to have physically been more convincing. Maybe they did? I don't know! If they did, he obviously wasn't coming out to play.
At the time of writing, Lennon Naked can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: Only one copy currently available @ £21.85
Used: Only one copy currently available @ £21.99
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Summary: A questionable, but quite brave attempt at portraying a small section of John Lennon's life