This Must be the Place (2011) dir. Paolo Sorrentino
Starring: Sean Penn, Judd Hirsch, Frances McDormand, Eve Hewson, Kerry Condon, Harry Dean Stanton
By Alan Bacchus
This Must Be the Place is a Cannes entry from last year from the director of Il Divo. Unfortunately, where there was much potential in that film to announce a cool new voice in cinema this awful, overly eclectic exercise in self-indulgence is a major disappointment.
Sean Penn is a former musician, Cheyenne, dressed in goth black, pale face powder, black mascara and lipstick, thus a spitting image of The Cure’s Robert Smith. Though he lives in a swank Irish mansion with a completely devoted wife (McDormand) something's eating him, as he spends his days wandering around Dublin speaking in whispers and meek tones.
When he meets an old Nazi hunter (Hirsch) who knew his estranged father he's inspired to embark on a quest to kill the former concentration camp comandante that tormented his father.
After a misleading and essentially useless first act set in Dublin the film settles into a kind of eccentric road movie. As such, we're never sufficiently grounded. Just as we get used to goth Sean Penn living in Ireland, for no apparent reason we're shifted to another inexplicable location – Utah.
But this seems to be the foundation of Sorrentino's comedy – unpredictability. The point of the picture seems to beat us with random quirkiness, cinematic stylishness and Sean Penn's wicked hair. Admittedly, the sight of Mr. Penn with Robert Smith-hair never really tires, but it's also not the basis for a movie.
The stylish excesses also rampant in Il Divo are almost insufferable here. Sorrentino throws in too many mismatched characters, quirks, locations, music and camera language.
The casting of McDormand as Penn's wife, a middle-class ex-hippie, is like oil and water. And considering this film takes place in Dublin and the American southwest, made by Italian filmmakers with music from David Byrne and Will Oldham, there are just too many mismatched puzzle pieces that don't fit together.