Saturday, January 28, 2012

This Must Be The Place

This Must Be The Place
Co-writer/Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Starring: Sean Penn, Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch

Paolo Sorrentino's This Must Be The Place centers around Sean Penn's character, a burned out former rock star named Cheyenne, as he searches for his dead father's tormenter, a now 95-year-old Nazi hiding in the United States. The director scored with his last film, Il Divo - which I haven't seen, but have heard great things about - but his follow-up is a total disappointment on nearly every level.

Some of that synopsis may sound interesting, and there are occasionally interesting moments in the film that seem to hint at something deeper happening beneath the surface. But these moments ultimately don't lead anywhere, leaving me frustrated and wishing I could see these loose ends tied up instead of what actually unfolds on screen. Early in the film, a downcast Penn walks through a mall and an ironic fan comes up and snaps a photo of him without permission, celebrating as he walks away. Perhaps this movie will deal with the nature of celebrity. Nope. Aside from the occasional person recognizing Penn's character, that's about all it offers on the subject. There's also a very interesting subplot involving Penn producing the debut album of a band that was playing at said mall, but this is mentioned briefly and then never returned to. Where's THAT movie? That's the one I want to see.

Instead, Sean Penn takes on this bizarre affectation that reminds me of a grandmother: pasty white skin, bright lipstick, a weirdly high-pitched titter of a laugh, and long (and I mean LONG) pauses in between words. The film runs 118 minutes, but feels like an eternity; if he had spoken at a normal rate, it could have easily been over in 90 minutes. Non-sequiturs abound, and the transitions from location to location are awkwardly handled and never smoothly executed. The entire movie hinges on the audience investing in his character, but I found him utterly insufferable from beginning to end. Side characters played by Frances McDormand and Judd Hirsch are bright spots in an otherwise dull film, and This Must Be The Place certainly isn't a place I ever want to visit again.

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