In a week-old essay, Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman expressed a profound lack of faith in Sam Mendes’ ability to make a satisfying quartet of Beatles movies, one about each of the Fab Four, using the individual perspectives of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

My initial reaction (posted on 2.28.24) was that “nobody and I mean nobody can ‘play’ Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr. No matter who Mendes chooses to hire, it simply won’t work. Their faces and voices are too deeply embedded in every corner of our minds to convincingly replicate or even half-replicate in a narrative format.”

I’m nonetheless intrigued by the ambition behind the Mendes-Beatles project, particularly the idea of releasing all four films in tandem in 2027. You can’t accuse Mendes and Sony chief Tom Rothman of undue caution or timidity.

The Gleiberman piece triggered me, however, when he said he got “swept up” by Nowhere Boy, Sam Taylor Johnson‘s 2009 biopic of the teenaged John Lennon. Dear God in heaven!

I was actually too generous in calling it “a marginally effective, vaguely muffled chick-flick account of 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 love and rejection were key issues in Lennon’s youth, but the film didn’t sell me on this. It 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’) 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?”

HE commenter #1: “This portrait of Lennon seems to be far too cuddly to be credible. From what I’ve read, he had a mile-wide cruel streak, was more than a bit of a brawler and, if Albert Goldman is to be believed, almost beat another man to death for making a pass at him.

HE commenter #2: “Actually I think the movie makes Lennon look like the world’s biggest twat. Which he may have been, but when you remove all the context of who he becomes, then it’s just an annoying, unpleasant watch. There’s very few redeeming qualities about this film, and Johnson’s noxious portrayal didn’t help things.”