Paolo Sorretino’s first English Feature is a bizarre combination of quirky misguided turns but still manages to retain a sincere kooky charm. We start off in Ireland, a quaint Dublin shopping centre, we visit New York and fore fill title purpose with a cameo performance from David Byrne himself, then pass through the new Mexican desert and end with the demise of a Nazi war criminal. What the film lacks in consistent direction it makes up for in spades of unique, weird, likeable revolving characters and equally strange dialogue.
Sean Penn plays gentle mannered, ageing rock star ‘Cheyenne’. A bizarre androgynous creation somewhere between all things awesome 80’s Goth (Robert Smith), Edward Scissorhands and an extra dollop of camp. Francis Mcdormand plays his humble and delightfully brash wife and they settle down to a life of tax privileged luxury in the Irish Republic. Spending his time with a chubby laddish friend and a young female Goth with family problems. As if that wasn’t enough of an intriguing set up, he returns to New York after hearing news of his estranged Jewish Father’s death. A succession of characters and sequences begin showing us the strange and endearing landscape of America and it’s endearing people.
Unlike Diablo Cody’s 2009 Jennifers Body which reserved any use of Hole tracks in the film until the end credit sequence and went with ‘Violet’, This must Be the Place has many covers, instrumentals and a live performance from David Byrne himself of the talking heads classic. This sometimes proves a distraction a screenplay needs to be more captivating than “Where can download that mix of the song”.
“Something is not quite right here. I’m not exactly sure what, but something…”. Cheyenne’s repeated awkward moment analysis sums up the film pretty well. Sean Penn’s performance is startling and almost dream like, there’s no location in the film from the Dublin shopping centre to the desert where he seems well placed but he has no trouble wading through a sea of a different people. Above all it’s shows Penn is willing not to take himself too seriously, given the right material. It’s almost an excellent melancholic odyssey of curious characters and landscapes but it’s off kilter decent into a hunt on a Nazi warlord lets the film down. To do such a sensitive subject justice it would need more constant attention. Perhaps it’s a narrative tool to push him on a road trip in search of something and in the end he leaves coming of age and emotionally developed but its feels uncoordinated. A lot of beautifully written dialogue in the few moments where the focus is on the Holocaust “Solitude is the playground for resentment”. Any effort from a film director to leave their safe zone cinematically is to be praised and whilst the gorgeous striking composed visuals, imagery and individuals do this for Sorretino, his English-language feature debut is as not as electrically charged as political biopic Il Divo however it’s a perfectly delightful detour.
By Von Von Lamunu