Killing Bono (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
19Jan/120

Killing Bono (2011)

Also out this week on DVD are The Ides of March (Danny's review), Abduction (my review),
Courageous (Danny's review), and Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star (my review).

At least I got to see you one last time Postlethwaite, you magnificent man.

If Killing Bono were released in the summer months I might be looking at it a little more favorably.  It's the perfect kind of movie to watch on a hot afternoon after you've been baking in the sun all day and don't want to think too hard about what you're watching.  You just throw it on the background, bust out the aloe vera and try desperately not to get a sunburn.

Instead, I'm watching this movie in the dead of winter when the temperature is a pleasant 27 degrees and I'm already in an agitated state coming fresh from one of the worst films I've ever seen.  This isn't the time to be viewing a haphazard comedy, but at least I'm not dulled by pain enough to recognize someone may be able to pleasantly ignore this when it's on the telly.

Faint praise, yes, but I'm just happy to recognize good in the world again.

Wildly veering fashion senses be damned.

Killing Bono is based on the memoirs of Neil McCormick.  Apparently the book is entertaining and I have it on decent authority the man is a fine rock critic.  That said, it's clear based on the broad outlines of the story in Killing Bono that if the film is even slightly accurate both of these are fairly decent claims.  But McCormick's greatest claim to fame, according to the movie anyway, is that he very nearly didn't get into U2 and spent a large chunk of the next ten years trying to make it big his own way.

"His own way" is, sadly, why I have the problems with the film that I do.  McCormick as written for the movie has this distressing tendency to reject possible success just because that's the action which would cause the greatest amount of drama in each scene.  Offered a chance to play before Joshua Tree era U2?  Nah, just play to a bored crowd of 50 instead.  Offered numerous record label deals?  Nah, they cater to Rod Stewart, and he's a prick.

Because of this the drama comes off very forced since the film becomes a guessing game of more what Neil will reject then what Neil will do.  The comedy elements don't fare any better, taking broad shots against '80s music that were already stale when The Wedding Singer sterilized them in the '90s.  The beginning and end of each punchline is based on a visual which screams, "Makeup!  Aren't they silly?  You laugh now!"  This isn't helped by a number of terrible side-plots, including one about a porn/strip club baron the film had no idea what to do with or how threatening to really make him.

The scenes where they're just jamming or quietly struggling suggest a quieter, better film.

In spite of the non-starter plots, the performances keep the film afloat and at times very pleasant.  Ben Barnes as Neil and Robert Sheehan as his poor brother Ivan develop an instantly believable rapport and maintain it through a number of scenes which only long-suffering siblings may have a connection to.  The late Pete Postlethwaite gets a sweet little roll as an aging homosexual rocker with a soft spot for young up and comers.  Krysten Ritter rounds out the cast doing what she can with a thankless role (playing Neil's also long-suffering girlfriend), but keeps the charm bouncy even when she's asked to forgive his stalker-esque behavior.

There's surprisingly little U2 used on the soundtrack, which may come as a nice bonus for those who aren't fans.  I, however, don't think this was a good choice because Neil's obsession with their success is limited to pictures every so often and not a single aural reminder.  Plus, I'm a huge fan of pre-Beautiful Day U2, and since the film takes place during the release of their best albums (War and The Joshua Tree) it's just a bit odd we don't get to hear them.  What we do get to hear are the songs McCormick's band puts out and they're forgettably ok, like a bargain-basement Big Country.

Which, in a final analysis, is something of the point.  Too bad about all those bad subplots,  because I could have hung out with these guys in their cramped kitchen just playing away for a long time.

Killing Bono (2011)
Directed by Nick Hamm.
Screenplay by Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais and Simon Maxwell.
Starring Ben Barnes and Robert Sheehan.

Posted by Andrew

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