Documentaries aren’t exactly my forte. I like to think that I’m open to multiple different types of documentary styles of filmmaking, but there are a few tenants that I think all documentaries should follow. For example, when I watch a documentary, it stands to reason that the subject of the documentary should be the main focus. I mean, it makes sense to me. Like, if you’re going to be making a documentary about Michael Jackson, it would be weird to have it consist of Michael just talking about his brother Tito, right?
With that in mind, I’m torn about The Lost Weekend: A Love Story. The subject matter and archival footage within it is a treasure trove for lovers of John Lennon and The Beatles. There’s so much rich information here and never-before-seen footage and recordings that were a delight to listen to. However, despite the documentary being about May Pang, one of John Lennon’s lovers, it instead becomes a documentary almost entirely around John. In other words, the subject of the documentary feels like a supporting character in her own story.
The Lost Weekend: A Love Story
Directors: Eve Brandstein, Richard Kaufman, Stuart Samuels
Release Date: June 10, 2022 (Tribeca Film Festival)
For those unaware, May Pang was a young woman who was able to score a job at Apple Records despite having no experience and still being a teenager in the 70s. While there, she began to work with John Lennon and Yoko Ono and quickly became a part of their lifestyle. This included Yoko manipulating her into dating John when Yoko and John’s marriage began to fall apart because Yoko could trust her to keep John safe. The eponymous “Lost Weekend” refers to John’s time out in LA with May and him coming to terms with his alcoholism, reconnecting with his estranged son, and even coming to terms with Paul McCartney, who had a bad falling out with John when The Beatles broke up. All the while, May would be there to support him.
From a production standpoint, The Lost Weekend: A Love Story is sensational. I grew up listening to The Beatles and poring over all of their albums, so to hear studio jam sessions with John and see some of his sketches were fascinating. Accompanying these behind-the-scenes treats were several interviews from May from multiple different news outlets, as well as simplistic yet effective animations depicting John, Yoko, and May throughout the “Lost Weekend.” It made the documentary interesting to watch, although it can be overproduced at times. The documentary occasionally bombards viewers with dissonant chords and visual flourishes that serve to distract more than anything. Still, for the most part, these moments don’t last too long and don’t take away from what works.
The film also doesn’t skimp on having a lot of great testimonials. May Pang narrates the entire doc, with famous musicians like Alice Cooper, Elton John, and even Paul McCartney contributing some commentary on the “Lost Weekend,” whether that be from new interviews about the subject or from recovered interviews from decades ago. It serves to create a very comprehensive look at John Lennon and the demons and insecurities he dealt with after leaving The Beatles and going solo. Some of those beats are very familiar ones, like Yoko continuing to be demonized as the villain of not only The Beatles but John’s mental well-being. Still, those beats at least appear fresh and offer new perspectives on how she tried to control virtually everything in John’s life.
But that’s the biggest problem with the documentary. Despite opening up with May explaining who she was, her parentage, and how she began to work for John and Yoko, this is a documentary about John Lennon. May provides insight into how she felt about John at times, but she, like us, is just an observer. She merely commentates on Lennon’s actions throughout the film and doesn’t contribute anything meaningful to the discussion. You never can feel that passion she supposedly had for Lennon. It feels very formal and distant. If you wanted to learn more about John Lennon, this documentary will provide that. But if you wanted to learn about May Pang, you’re not going to get it here.
It’s frustrating because, in a lot of ways, The Lost Weekend: A Love Story is great. It offers up a rich and focused deep dive into John Lennon and his mental state of mind through a woman that he cared deeply for. But the actual subject, May Pang, is a non-entity. She only truly speaks her mind at the very end, and even then there’s so much about her final account that makes me doubt her authenticity. It’s not the best way for a documentary to end on. I’m sure that there is an audience for documentaries like this because there is a lot to like about it, but there are a lot of misguided decisions that hurt the final product in ways that aren’t easy to remedy.