Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Movie Review: “The Lost Weekend” a Revealing but Myopic Love Story

“The Lost Weekend: A Love Story,” which opened in select South Florida theaters last weekend, sheds unprecedented light on the whirlwind 18-month love affair between John Lennon and this documentary’s narrator, his assistant May Pang, in 1973-74. Their courtship—not only sanctioned but instigated, evidently, by Yoko Ono, whose marriage to Lennon was foundering—has long been a subject of interest in Beatles lore, which Pang has been game enough to kindle in numerous media appearances, a memoir released a few years after Lennon’s assassination, and now this project, which features never-before-seen photographs and video from her archive.

I don’t need to tell you that if you’re a Lennon-phile, “The Lost Weekend” is essential viewing. It includes priceless images of one of Lennon’s few post-Beatles encounters with Paul McCartney, and new video of Lennon, for example, swinging an acoustic guitar in a posh hotel room, and nearly colliding with a chandelier. As documentaries go, directors Eve Brandstein, Richard Kaufman and Stuart Samuels invent no new wheels, delivering information efficiently and splashily, with a mix of fresh interviews cut together with vintage clips and some—though not nearly enough—musical snippets. “The Lost Weekend” never drags, because it’s relentlessly forward-moving; the directors know the formula for a PBS-friendly documentary, and they are fine curators of the material.

Especially fascinating are the backstories behind the making of John and Yoko’s early avant-garde films, like “Fly,” in which it was Pang’s job to secure the title insects for the shoot. (She found that the kitchens of New York’s Chinese restaurants to be ideal breeding grounds.) We learn the origins of Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” and we listen to Lennon recount the UFO sighting he shared with Pang.

Perhaps most importantly, the movie demystifies Lennon’s deity status. He could be violent with Pang and others. “I was a hitter,” Lennon says in one of its clips. He also had a problem with alcohol, to the point of inappropriate public behavior, and “The Lost Weekend” shies away from none of his faults.

Where the movie goes astray is the same closeness to its central subject—Pang—that is also responsible for its infectious joys and insights. I was surprised to find that Pang was not a producer on “The Lost Weekend,” because it only offers her myopic perspective, for better or worse. This includes recollections in which she was clearly agog at the life of celebrity into which she was thrust, with star-struck cameos from Mick Jagger and David Bowie that feel a little extraneous.

Moreover, Pang goes to great lengths to present herself as anything but the Other Woman, which the directors dutifully support in their stylistic choices. I’m beyond sick and tired of the demonization of Yoko Ono, a complex figure and performance artist of radical depth both before and after her relationship with Lennon, and “The Lost Weekend” only fans the flames of her haters. The Ono of this movie is cold, calculating, distant, Machiavellian—pick your unseemly adjective. When Pang reports on Ono and Lennon’s failing marriage, the directors show an image of Ono splintering apart to the sound of breaking glass, a chintzy enough bit of storytelling shorthand that’s doubly worse for its subliminal bias.

I’m left, finally, with a sour feeling, that for all of its tenderness and fire, and for its filling in of puzzle pieces from Lennon’s post-Beatles contributions to art and culture, that “The Lost Weekend” is foremost a vanity project for May Pang. Ono’s perspective is absent through all of it. It would be frustrating if it wasn’t so predictable.

“The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” is now playing at the Movies of Delray, Movies of Lake Worth, and Savor Cinema in Fort Lauderdale.


For more of Boca magazine’s arts and entertainment coverage, click here.

John Thomason
John Thomason
As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Related Articles

Latest Articles