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Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have the misfortune to go to school with Bono...—Neil McCormick
Killing Bono is a 2011 Irish comedy movie based on the memoirs of music journalist Neil McCormick. It follows the story of Neil and his brother Ivan in their quest to become rich and famous rockstars, only to find themselves dramatically overshadowed by their former school-friend Paul Hewson (better known to the world as Bono) and his band U2.
To make matters worse, back in their school days Ivan auditioned for a place in U2 and (unbeknownst to him) the band decided they wanted him to join, but a disgruntled Neil made an executive decision and refused the offer on his brother's behalf. After witnessing Bono's meteoric rise to fame, Neil feels he owes it to his brother to make their band Shook Up! even more successful than U2. Only, things don't quite go according to plan...
Starring Ben Barnes (of Chronicles of Narnia fame) as Neil, Misfits star Robert Sheehan as Ivan, and Martin McCann (Clash of the Titans) as Bono. Also features Krysten Ritter, Peter Serafinowicz, and the late Pete Postlethwaite (in his final performance).
Tropes present in this movie:
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Inverted. Neil is a massive annoyance to Ivan (well, to just about everyone he meets really) and is by far the more immature of the two.
- Artistic License: Although the basic premise of the story was true (i.e. former school friends of U2 attempt to become global rockstars) almost everything else was exaggerated or made up entirely for the sake of drama. None of the stuff with the guns and the gangsters ever really happened. And it was actually Neil himself who passed up the opportunity to join U2, not Ivan.
- Bittersweet Ending: After all the hardship and struggle, it's a little disheartening to see Neil just fail in his attempt to become a rockstar. On the other hand, at least he went on to be a successful writer and ended up marrying Gloria.
- Born Unlucky: Neil. His luck is so astonishingly bad that at times it really does seem like the entire cosmos is out to get him. Ivan lampshades this more than once.
- Camp Gay: Carl, the boys' landlord (who takes a particular liking to Ivan).
- The Chew Toy: Both of the McCormick brothers, but especially Neil. All his mistakes come back to bite him on the ass, and although he occasionally strays into Asshole Victim territory, he's so shambolic it's hard not to feel sorry for him at times.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Hammond.
- Dark Secret: For years Ivan believes he simply failed the audition to join U2... when he finds out the truth Neil has been keeping from him, he is not happy.
- Dawson Casting: Somewhat justified as the movie spanned about a decade, so the lead actors were all roundabout the appropriate age for the latter part of the movie. But the earliest scenes featured Ben Barnes (28), Martin McCann (26) and Robert Sheehan (23) as schoolboys. Admittedly all three actors are quite youthful in appearance, but they still don't really look like teenagers...
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Gloria.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Poor Ivan.
- Doomed by Canon: Even if you aren't aware of the specific fates of the McCormick brothers (i.e. that one becomes a music journalist and the other a wedding singer), it's still pretty obvious that Shook Up! isn't ultimately going to hit the big-time.
- The Eighties: Complete with Eighties Hair, alarming fashions and some kick-ass music.
- Fake Irish: Ben Barnes is English.
- Femme Fatale: Hammond's wife, Danielle.
- Green-Eyed Monster: The narrative is fuelled by Neil's all-consuming envy of Bono.
- Heroic BSOD: Ivan when he finds out he could've been a member of U2.
- Historical Beauty Update: The real McCormick brothers (although not unattractive guys in their youth) weren't as conventionally handsome as the actors playing them. In fact, when he first heard about the casting choices, Neil jokingly observed that if he'd actually looked like Ben Barnes he probably wouldn't have had so much trouble getting a recond deal.
- I Can't Dance: When Neil dances onstage he looks like he's having an epileptic fit. Ivan tries to dissuade him from ever doing it again but it doesn't stop him.
- I Coulda Been a Contender: Neil is actually a very talented singer/songwriter (as was the real Neil McCormick) and could have been genuinely successful if luck had been on his side.
- Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Neil and Ivan wear some utter monstrosities throughout the course of the film. Ivan's high-waisted denim dungarees are among the most haunting images in modern cinema.
- The production team went out of their way to make the brothers look as silly as possible to highlight the fact that they really are losers. Otherwise they would've just been two talented, good-looking guys with a great band, and their abject failure would've seemed a bit jarring. The actors were made to change into sillier outfits whenever the director decided they looked "too cool".
- Large Ham: Peter Serafinowicz as Hammond. Ben Barnes has his moments too.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Neil likes writing catchy pop songs about rape.
- The Rival: Bono, in Neil's eyes anyway. Although Bono himself is perfectly agreeable and makes every effort to maintain his friendship with Neil (and even tries to help him out professionally) Neil still resents him terribly.
- Nice Hat
- Sibling Rivalry
- Spoiler Opening
- Stupid Boss: Hammond. How he ended up as a record executive is anyone's guess.
- Underdogs Never Lose: Averted.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist
- Verbing Nouny
- Your Cheating Heart: Neil's stolen night of passion with Danielle. Obviously, he gets caught.