Now that Sam Taylor-Wood‘s Nowhere Boy (Icon/Weinstein, 10.8) is finally opening, here’s an abridged recap of my original 10.29.09 review. I called it “a marginally effective, vaguely muffled chick-flick account of John Lennon‘s teenage years in Liverpool, circa 1956 to ’60. I’m not calling it dull, exactly, but Nowhere Boy‘s somewhat feminized, all-he-needs-is-love story just didn’t turn me on.
“Matt Greenhalgh‘s script is based on a memoir called ‘Imagine This‘ by Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird. I understand that this was the key issue of Lennon’s youth, but the film didn’t sell me on this, and in fact seemed to be frittering away its time by focusing on it. Lennon’s anguish was primal enough (‘Mother, you had me but I never had you,’ etc.) but my reaction all through it was, ‘Okay, but can we get to the musical stuff, please?’
“Nowhere Boy boasts a relatively decent lead performance by Aaron Johnson. He doesn’t overdo the mimicry and keeps his Liverpudlian accent in check. And yet it’s a somewhat overly sensitive, touchy-feely rendering of a rock ‘n’ roll legend who was known, after all, for his nervy, impudent and sometimes caustic manner, at least in his early incarnations.
“I didn’t believe the hurting look in Johnson’s eyes. All those looking-for-love feelings he shows are too much about ‘acting,’ and hurt-puppy-dog expressions don’t blend with the legend of the young Lennon (as passed along by biographies, articles, A Hard Day’s Night etc.) Emotionally troubled young guys tend to get crusty and defensive when there’s hurt inside, and this was certainly Lennon’s deal early on.
“And Johnson is needlessly compromised, I feel, by a curious decision on Taylor-Wood’s part to create her own, reality-defying physical version of Lennon. She ignores the fact that he had light brown, honey-colored hair by allowing Johnson to keep his own dark-brown, nearly-jet-black hair. Nor did she have Johnson wear a prosthetic nose — one of the oldest and easiest tricks in the book — in order to replicate Lennon’s distinctive English honker. Where would the harm have been if they’d tried to make Johnson look more like the real McCoy?”