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.
We're lucky if even one film a year is rated this highly. Some Oscar winners tend to fall within this score range. Check out more reviews or the Flixist score guide.
It hasn't been that long since the first trailer for The World's End, but we've already got our second look at the film in this new trailer. There's some new jokes, a couple more bits of plot, and more character interactions...
During a Reddit AMA today Richard Linklater was asked about the spiritual sequel he and Matthew McConaughey were planning on shooting. His answer may turn a few heads since the last we heard about it they were simply tossing ...
Two new posters have been released for director Edgar Wright’s newest film, The World’s End. In case we didn’t know this from the first trailer that was released, we can reaffirm that Paddy Considine, Martin...
A while ago comedian Patton Oswalt appeared on the TV show Parks and Recreation as a citizen of the town of Pawnee who made a filibuster rant... about Star Wars Episode VII, and all that it could be. And the internet went cr...
The third installment of Ghostbusters has been bouncing around forever, but it is still a thing that may happen. We've already heard that the films will focus on a younger generation of Ghostbusters, with the old guys pa...
Here is the trailer for The Young and Prodigious Spivet, the latest from Amelie and City of Lost Children director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The film is an adaptation of the book The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen, ...
Although this looks so much like the first teaser that they may have been filmed around the same time, it's hard to deny its hilarity. It's just the Channel 4 News Team walking forward and exchanging one liners once more. Th...
The final part of the Hangover trilogy (Trilogy? Who knew?) releases in just a little under six days so that means there's well enough time to squeeze in one final Red Band trailer. If none of the previous material convinced...
I'll admit that I'm a sucker for "old men doing young things" movies desspite how bad most of them are. I sat through The Bucket List, Space Cowboys (but it was kind of good), Stand Up Guys, and I'm most likely going to see ...
Woody Allen's Manhattan opens with that stunning overture of "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin. It's like a love letter to the city, the great colossus, a romanticized land of bustle and possibility. The film is a portrai...
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
One of my favorite comedies is Waiting for Guffman, the first of those Christopher Guest-directed ensemble mockumentaries. It plays well with the goofiness of amateur theater and really embraces the hokey vibe of stage musica...more
Sometimes movies are filled with unlikable characters, and that turns a lot of people off. I never go to movies to make friends with the characters. I actually think that lots of unlikable characters can be compelling.
In a year where Great Britain has been celebrated by its Queen's jubilee, a successful Olympics and the fiftieth anniversary of its greatest cinematic icon, there's something gleefully appropriate about the year's final sho...more
First off, if you don't understand that sub-header than you need to crack F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby open and give it a read. If you're like me you haven't touched the thing since high school and it's well worth a...more
I like film festivals for a lot of reasons, but one of the best is the way films are forced into context with a number of other, entirely unrelated films. The act of watching multiple films in a day alone creates all sorts of...more
Here's an interesting fact: Taiwan is among the most gay-friendly countries in Asia. Gay marriage is not explicitly legal (a bill attempting to fix that stalled nearly a decade ago), but even as far as 2006, a poll of the pop...more
In some ways Northwest could be written off as another movie about how crime doesn't pay. There's an escalation of criminal activity, there's the brief taste of a modest sweet life, there's the tragic inflation of egos, and t...more
I remember talking to a friend of mine about Muhammad Ali once, and he mentioned the nuttiness of the Ernie Terrell fight in 1967. About three years prior to that match, Ali had joined the Nation of Islam and officially chang...more
At the end of The Project we're shown events that happened in March 2013 involving the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF). There's a harrowing stand-off with Somali pirates just off the coast. Since the events and de...more
Richard Pryor is one of the best stand-up comedians of all time. Whether it's an album like That N***er's Crazy or the Live on the Sunset Strip comedy special, there's such incredible comic timing in his work, and also just p...more
At the beginning of the documentary Powerless, we're told that 1.5 billion people in the world live without electricity, and that 400 million of those people live in India. The numbers are pretty staggering, especially w...more
If there was a marketing blurb for The Moment that could sell its strengths, it would probably say something like "Christopher Nolan's Memento meets Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up."
That's really the best possible scenario ...more
Sometimes I watch a film and wind up thinking about two things: length and medium. In terms of length, I wonder if a feature film should be a short instead (and vice versa). In terms of medium, I wonder if the film's content ...more