Thursday, March 8, 2012


“Something’s not quite right here. I’m not sure what, exactly. But something.”

If anyone would have once told me that Sean Penn in Robert Smith drag would be such a heartbreaking sight, I’d’ve laughed in their faces.
At the very least, I’m so glad that Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must Be the Place proved that assumption so very wrong.
Here, Penn is Cheyenne, a singer who no longer sings and yet still retains a faded and tired echo of his rock star persona, who is forced to take a good long look at himself and his life when news of his father’s impending death reaches him.

“Then, during the Inferno, we, too, from the other side of the barbed wire, we, too, looked at the snow, and at God.”

While this is the sort of the film that is admittedly not to everyone’s tastes, if you do find it to your liking, you’ll discover that it’s both funny and poignant in perhaps equal measure. It’s a film full of oddities and grace notes found in the unlikeliest of places.
Like Liev Schreiber’s adaptation of Everything Is Illuminated, the narrative arc of This Must Be the Place takes the form of a journey, as Penn’s frazzle-haired, eyelinered and lipsticked Cheyenne takes a road trip through the United States in an attempt to come to terms with his estranged relationship with his father, a Holocaust survivor. It’s a journey that’s as much temporal and psychic as it is geographical and physical, with Penn’s excellent portrayal as its riveting lynchpin.
Some 39 minutes into its running time, you’ll find what should very well have been Penn’s Oscar Clip, but alas, This Must Be The Place was just one of a number of titles overlooked by the Academy Awards this year… (And if that clip won’t do, the brief and fleeting look of deep, existential despair Penn flashes at the mention of Mariah Carey’s name would do nicely as well.)
And while there are also notable performances in here by Frances McDormand and Shea Whigham, and oh-so-briefly, Harry Dean Stanton, and original music by David Byrne (who also appears as himself), it’s Penn you’re really gonna come in to see.
And, even if you aren’t particularly a Sean Penn fan, if you’re a Robert Smith/Cure fan, or even a David Byrne/Talking Heads fan, this one should be on your radar too.

“Home is where I want to be… but I guess I’m already there.”
-- Talking Heads
“This Must Be the Place”

(This Must Be the Place OS and UK quad courtesy of

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