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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > This Must Be the Place

MOVIE REVIEWS

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (2011)

Starring Sean Penn, Judd Hirsch, Eve Hewson, Kerry Condon, Harry Dean Stanton, Frances McDormand, Joyce Van Patten and David Byrne.

Screenplay by Paolo Sorrentino and Umberto Contarello.

Directed by Paolo Sorrentino.

Distributed by The Weinstein Company.  118 minutes.  Rated R.

 

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This Must Be the Place

This Must Be the Place is such an odd little movie that you spend most of the running time trying to decide if you are enjoying it or not.  And for all of its truly weird quirks – and there are lots of them – the answer is mostly yes.

The basic storyline is almost too bonkers to believe.  Sean Penn plays Cheyenne, an aging former goth rocker (think Robert Smith of the Cure meets The Osbornes-era Ozzy) who is living in quiet depressive normality, until he returns to the United States for his father's funeral and ends up searching for the Nazi guard who was his dad's obsession.

However, the movie is not a tasteless revenge comedy as the story could be in less capable hands, instead it is a thoughtful and rather devastating drama.

The confusing dichotomy of the film is due as much as anything else to Penn's performance.  I can't decide for sure if it is brilliant or merely precious, annoying and mannered, but I'm leaning towards tour de force. 

Cheyenne is a man who is living in slow motion: walking, talking, reacting to everything a beat or two too slowly, his voice a high whine, his laugh an uncomfortable cackle.  Surprisingly, the story suggests that his lethargy is not drug-induced.  This is a man who is numb to the world, mostly through his own depression and feelings of guilt.  And yet, shockingly, as you watch him you realize that instead of rock-star jadedness, Cheyenne is a bit of an innocent and basically good hearted, but struggling with a world he feels completely cut off from.

Twenty years after his short-lived stardom, Cheyenne feels the need to keep the look, but otherwise he has completely divorced himself from the rock star lifestyle.  He lives in a quiet section of Dublin with his wife (Frances McDormand), who in one of the movie's many quirks, is a professional fireman.  He dotes on a young fan (Eve Hewson) who idolizes him, but he can't bear to even think of playing again because of two fans who took his morose lyrics as a path to suicide.

When his estranged dying father necessitates Cheyenne to return home to the States – a fear of flying causes him to miss a chance to say goodbye – Cheyenne learns about his father's concern that a Nazi officer who humiliated him 50 years earlier was still alive and living in the States.  After getting shot down by a famed Nazi hunter (Judd Hirsch), Cheyenne decides to try to track down the war criminal himself, not so much for a need for justice as just needing something to occupy himself and to renew his passion for life.

The search for the Nazi almost becomes secondary to him, this is a road trip of self-discovery and healing.  He goes to see a concert from an old contemporary – former lead Talking Head David Byrne plays himself and performs the Heads song that gives this film its title "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)."  In fact, they do about five or six very different versions of the song throughout the film: poking, prodding and reinventing the song as Cheyenne is trying to do to himself.  He also visits a Michigan teacher who may be the Nazi's ex-wife and a New Mexico woman and her curious son.

Cheyenne is always so measured and detached that in the rare occasions that he allows himself to be passionate – barking at a journalist or rawly admitting his feelings of inadequacy and guilt to Byrne – it is rather shocking. 

In a way, whether or not Cheyenne finds the Nazi is almost beside the point.  The Nazi is just a very pointed reminder that sometimes the past must be dealt with in order to move forward.

This Must Be the Place is a movie that leaves you with many more questions than answers.  And it's all the more interesting for it.  It's a hard movie to love in a traditional sense, but in it's own eccentric way it is quite interesting company. 

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2013 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 12, 2013.

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Copyright ©2013 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 12, 2013.

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