Saturday, June 12, 2010

Helly's Video View- Nowhere Boy and Manhattan

After being bumped two weeks in a row, I thought I would do a double edition of Helly's Video View this week. Starting with Nowhere Boy, a film inspired by John Lennon's life as a teenager and finishing with the Woody Allen classic Manhattan.

Nowhere Boy

As you might remember from my earlier review of Kick Ass, I was really looking forward to seeing this film. To watch the formation of The Beatles on the big screen and gain a little more insight into the life of John Lennon is such an exciting premise for any Beatles fan but unfortunately I was pretty disappointed with this film.

It would undoubtedly be very hard for a film maker to tackle this subject matter and walk away with entirely positive reviews. Having said that, I really feel like they should have stayed in the development stage longer and really honed the script as they had the makings of a great film but the end result feels not fully realised. The film feels more like a kitchen sink drama about a young boy (who could be any boy) rather than the insightful biopic I was hoping for. The actual early incarnation of the beatles only accounts for about fifteen minutes of the entire film, and while John Lennon certainly had an unusual childhood, I was just dying to see more scenes of him playing music and his relationship with Paul.

Another crucial element that was lacking was the casting. While I think Aaron Johnson is a very talented actor (and can definitely do a Liverpool accent) I just think he was entirely wrong for the part. Maybe I'm just going my own pre-conceived notions of how I think John Lennon should be from his adult life, (after all sometimes people grow up to be entirely different people) but I just felt like we were watching a coming of age tale about an anonymous, troubled teen, there was no essence of John Lennon in there. Aaron Johnson is just simply too good looking and buff to be believable as one of the most creative, unique people that ever lived. His incarnation of Lennon is rebellious but in more of a jock/bully way.  John Lennon was rebellious politically and also in his individualism. An actor who is a little more eccentric and unconventionally good looking would have been better for the part (like a younger James Mcavoy.)

Maybe there might be a Beatles biopic down the track. My suggestion would be for the director of Control Anton Corbijn to tackle the project as he would be able to make an interesting,provoking film which is much more than your standard biopic.


I have previously accused Woody Allen of making the same film over and over (pre year 2000 anyway) and while I enjoyed them, I found that they all repeated a lot of the same elements and characters. It is only now that I have seen so many of his films and with the power of hindsight that I can distinguish the subtle differences between them that make them all independently great. Yes, Woody Allen always plays  himself, but he's a writer/director/comedian before an actor and I realise now that it would be very strange to see him playing a 'character' as his films are written so much in his own voice that no one else could deliver the lines that he does. It's also about how he reacts when he is surrounded by the many different characters that are present in his films.

This would have to be my favourite of all the Woody Allen films that I've seen (and Match Point but this one is more quintessentially Woody.)The film's portrayal of love reminds me of the Joni Mitchell song Both Sides Now-

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It's loves illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

One would think that as you mature, you'd be able to have more of a handle on your love life. But in this film you have mostly middle aged characters still behaving like teenagers, they're insecure and erratic, conveying that when it comes  to love, they still haven't got it even remotely worked out.

I also love the many conversations people have during this film about what constitutes as art and it reminded me of many conversations I'd had at acting school with other pseudo intellectuals, like Diane Keaton's character. I found it hilarious when her character was talking about 'the academy of over rated' as I've blogged before about how I hate it when people use the term 'over rated' in regards to art. It's as if some people just love to play devil's advocate and criticise brilliant authors and artists just for the sake of being controversial.

It's interesting to see how Woody has clearly influenced many modern comics of today with his neurotic, self-deprecating style. The first one that comes to mind is Marc Maron. I liked how he kept remarking that everything was going to give him cancer and later admitting that this rationality wasn't based on anything he had read or seen, he was just making illogical assumptions.

I can't pretend that I wasn't a little disturbed at the taboo relationship presented in the film of a 42 year old man dating a 17 year old girl (especially knowing Woody Allen's personal life.) But what I drew from it relates to what I mentioned earlier about the notion of love in this film. The young girl seems to be the most mature, level headed character and is the only one who is unwavering in her wants and desires the entire film. Woody's character tells her repeatedly that she couldn't possibly have it all worked out as she's far too young but the film's resolution clearly proves him wrong.

1 comment:

  1. You have to let Woody off the hook for reusing similiar themes as he makes so many films that they're bound to overlap at some point. And I'd rather see more of the same than none at all. Wouldn't you agree, Lee?

    I couldn't agree more on both the reviews, by the way. You should replace David on Margaret & David!