While waiting to enter the theater for a Sundance press screening, a critic from another queue shouted that we're all about to regret how we were about to spend our next two hours. I don't know anything about this person, but by the end of This Must Be the Place I felt pretty sure that I hated him. Such is the bond that a viewer forms with such a unique piece of cinema.
It's me, Sean Penn, and two crazy Italian filmmakers against the world.
This Must Be the Place Director: Paolo Sorrentino Rating: R Release Date: November 2nd, 2012 (limited)
Pre-judging the film by its synopsis and wonderfully cut trailer, I felt pretty sure that the film was either a slice of genius or a mess that was somehow molded into a nice teaser. Even now that I know the entire plot of the film and my feelings toward it, I have a difficult time explaining it any better than those promotional materials. The film would be better served by explaining its impact on me than its wonderfully bent characters and comedic sense.
The film opens with a slow first act that brings us into the world of Cheyenne, a retired rock star with the muffled speech and gloomy yet elegant attire of Robert Smith and David Lynch's esoteric qualities that often find himself spouting words of wisdom that surprises even himself. Cheyenne is the heart of the film and what a big heart it is. Sean Penn brings the character to life, living through nuanced mannerism but still managing to maintain the mystery and depth of rock's all-time greats. His offbeat performance can be compared to Jon Heder in Napoleon Dynamite at times, but there is a heart and wit to Cheyenne that makes him into the warm, quirky androgynous man-mom we all wish we had.
Cheyenne lives in a large Dublin estate with his asexual goth daughter, sporty wife (Frances McDormand) who fights fires for a living when she isn't beating Cheyenne's ass at handball, and dog. It's probably not what Robert Smith's life is like, but it's the one we like to imagine in our heads. Less Osbounes, more Addams Family. Cheyenne cares little for the superficial and regrets his days chasing the billboards with his pop band, or so he confesses to David Byrne in the film. And, yes, Byrne plays himself!
How we go from these opening scenes of a picturesque family life to Cheyenne hunting a nazi war criminal in America can not be so easily explained. In many ways, This Must Be a Place recalls The Big Lebowski in the boldness of its artistic vision and characters. Every character has an awe-inspired performance, even when they are only present for a couple minutes of comedic levity. Every scene has its own warped tone that shrouds the viewer in mystery, while keeping the tone lighthearted. The specificity in the dialog, direction, and performances is unlike anything I've seen in a long time. This is a singular vision brought to life through wonderful character actors given a wealth of quotable lines ("She left me lonely like the last panda standing.")
Cheyenne's character is often played for laughs, but over time we grow to accept this is who he is as a person. As we learn his faults, his regrets, and his history, he suddenly turns into a wonderfully realized character that makes for a memorable guide on this crazy transcontinental nazi hunt. What starts as a quirky adventure turns into a touching meditation on living life and getting along with the ones who love us and never will. The film sneaks in some monologues near the end that hit me harder than anything I saw in 2011. All of them are highlighted through excellent camera work and lighting.
I kept asking myself throughout This Must Be the Place, "Whose mind did this come from?" The humor, mood, and visuals of this film are arresting in their originality. For those who buy into the strange world Italian filmmakers Paolo Sorrentino and Umberto Contarello have built, there are many perplexing scenes and lines that will be discussed after the big moments fade into familiar memories.
This Must Be the Place will be labeled pretentious and dull by some, but it will be championed as an all-time favorite by others. It's a weird thing that doesn't happen that often at the cinema these days, but that's just how great art works.
If you had any plans to be social for the next few days, you need to cancel them. Loads of Cartoon Network shows are now available on Netflix Instant, including Adventure Time, The Venture Bros., Robot Chicken, The Boondocks,...more
This week's arguably biggest home video release is Life of Pi (with its unfortunate two day early release date. Why not 3/14?) due to its baffling amount of Academy Awards (and I was sad when I realized it wasn't a docum...more
Anybody who knows me knows that seals are my favorite animal, so when I started seeing advertisements for Song of the Sea, I knew I had to check it out. Cartoon Saloon had already impressed me with its first feature film, Sec...more
I am a big Michael Mann fan. Collateral might be one of my favorite films. The guy just knows how to direct. You can be guaranteed at least one breath taking, though provoking shot in one of his films. This is espec...more
Taken was great. Taken 2 was...not as good. When I heard that Taken 3 was going to exist, I sighed, because I knew, knew, that I'd feel obligated to finish what I started.
So, on Saturday morning, I sat with ticket in ha...more
Predestination is one of those festival films that you have no idea exists but, when you finally see it, you wonder where it's been your entire life. I'm not the biggest time travel movie fan, nor do I really enjoy science fi...more
Sometimes you watch a movie and you immediately know how you're going to feel about it. There's something about the atmosphere that it creates that just strikes you. You know exactly what the film is trying to do, and you kno...more
I’m not educated enough to have an intelligent conversation about Inherent Vice. I’m smart enough, but to seriously wrestle with what Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s book is tryin...more
Foxcatcher quickly grabbed a lot of attention for its stark representation of some big named actors. While Steve Carell has tackled heavier material before, he had never looked as sinister as he did in the first couple of ima...more
For a Disney adaptation of a popular musical, Into the Woods has flown surprisingly under the radar. Coming out of practically nowhere, and with all of the early advertising hiding the fact that it is a musical, you'd think D...more
Everyone, I'm about to shock you to your core. Big Eyes is a Tim Burton film and it is quite possible that the color black doesn't appear once. Shades of greys and shadows, yes, but the Gothic trendings of the director a...more
After a crazy couple of weeks of Sony hacks, full on terrorist attack threats, cancellations, and a last minute reneging, I sort of forgot that at the center of all this mess was a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco....more
Clint Eastwood is easily one of the best directors in Hollywood so him tackling the incredible story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle is something to get pretty excited about. We already know he has the war movie chops tha...more
Unbroken is the first film directed by Angelina Jolie. That alone has given it a lot of hype, but it's easy to understand why it would be pushing at Oscars anyway. It's base on the true story of a WWII hero and Oscar jus...more
There's something to be said for perfect timing. Would Selma be one of the best movies of the year if it had released in January? Yes. But coming out now makes it a true masterpiece of its time. As we try to wrap our hea...more