The U.S. vs. John Lennon (David Leaf, John Scheinfeld). 91 minutes. Opens Friday (September 29). For venues and times, see Movies, page 108. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
The ongoing strip-mining of boomer nostalgia continues. This VH-1-produced documentary tracks John Lennon 's struggles with the INS during the Nixon era, when he and Yoko Ono had moved to New York and the government was trying to deport them as dangerous radicals.
In its favour, the filmmakers have accumulated a good deal of relevant documentary footage, including some contemporary interviews with Lennon, and since they did get Ono's cooperation, they have the rights to the appropriate music, mostly from the Plastic Ono Band period.
Lennon's bemused paranoia comes through nicely, and directors David Leaf and John Scheinfeld do a good job of constructing the historical context. Amid today's carefully marketed outrage and corporate sponsorships, it's worth remembering that this was a culture in which a rock music radical could be treated like an enemy of the state, not like Bono. (If Lennon was almost as self-important as Bono, he was a lot funnier.)
Not in its favour, this is a talking-heads rockumentary. It was designed to be watched on TV, and there's no real reason to see it in a theatre. To the filmmakers' credit, you can't always spot the commercial breaks.