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“Killing Bono,” reviewed

“Killing Bono,” reviewed (photo)

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What’s worse: having a dream and never coming close to it, or getting your hands on your dream and having it slip through your fingers? Neil McCormick, the subject of “Killing Bono” and the writer of the memoir upon which the film is based, would almost certainly pick the latter. Neil grew up dreaming of being a rock star. So did one of his classmates, a short but charismatic guy with cool hair named Paul Hewson. They went to the same school in Dublin and played double bills together with their respective bands: Nick with The Undertakers, Paul with The Hype. But then Paul changed his name to Bono, and his buddy David became The Edge, and The Hype became U2. As for Neil’s band, well you’ve never heard of The Undertakers, have you?

“Killing Bono” is about how it feels to be close enough to your dream to taste it but not close enough to enjoy it. Neil is so serious about becoming famous on his own merits that he refuses Bono’s repeated offers for help, even as U2 becomes one of the biggest bands in the world. Part of it is a perverse sense of pride; part of it is the fact that Neil refused to let his brother and lead guitarist Ivan join U2 back when they were still The Hype. Even worse: he never told Ivan about the offer. Knowing he kept that success from his brother — and then kept that fact a secret — gnaws away at his soul.

Dreams dashed, hope destroyed, families torn asunder; it sounds like a pretty heavy movie. And it is called “Killing Bono;” It even opens with Neil (“The Chronicles of Narnia”‘s Ben Barnes) hitting rock bottom and deciding to assassinate the lead singer of U2. But actually the title and the opening are both fake-outs; the movie is, despite its seemingly dark subject matter, a sort of absurdist comedy. Neil’s repeated career flameouts are played more for head-shaking laughs than existential angst. And even at its worst, his sibling rivalry with Ivan (Robert Sheehan) barely rises above the level of wacky, brotherly shenanigans.

To the film’s credit, that’s an interesting choice for the material, which is loosely based on real events but apparently also includes a fair amount of dramatic license. The brothers are so comically unlucky that their scuffling music career is kind of funny, particularly while they’re living on canned beans in the dilapidated flat of gay older gentlemen, played charmingly by the late Pete Postlethwaite in what ultimately turned out to be his final role. On the other hand, Neil is such a hard-headed fool, and so quick to turn down offers of support from Bono, his story is sometimes more frustrating than it is funny. Sometimes it’s hard to laugh at someone when you want to punch them in the face.

Still, Barnes and Sheehan have good chemistry together — important since they’re onscreen together in nearly every scene — and they do an impressive job on the film’s soundtrack, performing most of the music by The Undertakers and later their successors, Shook Up!, all of which is better than you’d expect from rockers that never hit the big time.

At its best, “Killing Bono” is an amusingly fluffy musical biopic. Things worked out okay in the end for the McCormick brothers, though not quite in the way they’d always dreamed (Google them if you’re curious). Things worked out okay in the end for “Killing Bono” as well. They didn’t work out great, but they turned out pretty good. I guess in this case, that’s sort of fitting.

“Killing Bono” opens Friday in New York City and November 11 in Los Angeles. If you see it, let us know what you think. Write to us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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