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Nowhere Boy

One of John Lennon’s most popular works was his greatest hits album ‘Lennon Legend’.  Like its title, his status was such that the realities of his life has given way to an almost mythical version of his career.  Whilst he has been the subject of several biographies, rarely have they focussed on the genesis of his outlook.  Nowhere Boy gamely attempts to uncover some of the emotions driving the boy who would become a reluctant idol to millions.

Living with his aunt Mimi (Kristen Scott Thomas) from a young age, John Lennon (Aaron Johnson) seeks answers on his parental background.  This suddenly arrives when his mother Julia (Anne Marie Duff) re-enters his life.  Revealed to be Mimi’s sister, Julia’s carefree ways versus her elder sister’s straight laced approach finds John in an emotional bind.  Using music as an escape, his formation of The Beatles and his tangled relationships would set an unexpected path for the future world-wide superstar.

Biographies are usually a dangerous genre as the truth becomes swept aside for the sake of dramatising events.  Whilst Nowhere Boy walks this line, it’s better than most due to a focussed screenplay and strong acting.  With actresses of the calibre of Thomas and Duff, it’s not difficult to see how women formed a large part in Lennon’s early and latter attitude.  Although Nowhere Boy can only speculate on how this affected him, his friendship with Paul McCartney and the rest of the group is interesting in how he found some male peers to offset the dominance of these two women.
Directed by first timer Sam Taylor-Wood, Nowhere Boy reasonably captures the essence of the times well.  Although occasionally descending into pure cliché with its early 60’s idioms, it thankfully doesn’t indulge too much in lazily showing endless concert scenes to pad out the running time.  As Lennon, Johnson equips himself well in the musical sequences although perhaps less so in the more dramatic scenes where he unfortunately becomes overshadowed by the other leads.  But there is generally much to maintain interest and it rises above other biographies due to the conviction of the performances.
Nowhere Boy is a good exploration of Lennon’s early years, with his lost soul finding some purpose despite his troubled youth.  Less superficial than other biographies, the script’s depth adds to a better understanding of a perceived legend refusing to fade.
Rating out of 10:  7

 

The Informant!

In a world obsessed with gathering information, our ability to sift fact from fiction becomes paramount.  Especially important when reading the latest gossipy titbit, accepting something at face value is never a good idea.  It’s a mantra ignored by The Informant’s clueless characters as the build up of lies and deception creates a very confusing vicious circle.
Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) works as a biochemist at a leading agricultural firm.  When he informs his boss a mole is leaking company secrets, they call in the FBI.  Upon their arrival, Mark then tells them his business is involved in a price-fixing ring.  Insisting he becomes their inside agent, the FBI lean heavily on him to rat on his colleagues.  But when Mark’s increasingly bizarre behaviour causes concern, his innocence becomes questioned in a climate devoid of truth.
Complete with an exclamation mark in the title and a jazzy soundtrack, Steven Soderbergh’s latest effort extends his quirky directorial sensibilities. This is shown in his deft mixture of comedy and drama where the corporate shenanigans slowly make way for an examination of one man’s delusions of grandeur.  With a tale ripe for plenty of biting satire with characters living in an orbit of dishonesty, The Informant! continues the tone set in Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 series.  That franchise’s commercial appeal laced with his independent film-making background successfully crossed genres which The Informant! almost manages.
An added bonus is Matt Damon’s performance, as an unstable character lost in his own imaginary world.  Progressively trapped by his own duplicity, his manic musings make for an interesting character to watch.  Every facet of his personality is given added nuance by Damon who is reasonably supported by a varied cast.  Based on true events, it occasionally suffers from sluggish pacing and a sense of forced humour rather than having it transpire naturally.  But you can’t fault the enthusiasm of those involved and the actual story is so engaging as to force the viewer to witness the final undoing of a dodgy swindler.
Not quite as memorable as it could have been, The Informant! still has a lightness of touch making some of the ‘business speak’ accessible. With a fine lead and twisty plot, viewers should derive some fun in its journey through the corporate jungle.
Rating out of 10:  6