This Must be the Place (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner05/04/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 118 mins

With strong echoes of Jim Jarmusch movies, this is an enjoyably quirky comedy-drama with offbeat dialogue, a great soundtrack and a brilliant central performance from Sean Penn, though it never really adds up to anything and frustratingly avoids a promising sub-plot.

What's it all about?
Directed by Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino (Il Divo), This Must Be the Place stars Sean Penn as Cheyenne, an eccentric retired rock star (think Robert Smith from The Cure with a dash of Michael Jackson) who lives in Dublin with his down-to-earth firefighter wife Jane (Frances McDormand) and spends his days hanging out at the shopping centre with his skateboarding Goth friend Mary (Eve Hewson), who he's trying to set up with a shy waiter (Sam Keeley as Desmond). However, when Cheyenne's father dies, he decides to take on the old man's quest to track down the Nazi who terrorised him at Auschwitz, so he sets off on a road trip across America.

Along the way, Cheyenne has several road movie style encounters, including a famous Nazi hunter (Judd Hirsch as Mordecai Midler), David Byrne (as himself) and a man (Harry Dean Stanton) who claims to have invented the wheelie-suitcase.

The Good
Sporting heavy make-up and a bushy black fright wig, Sean Penn is terrific as Cheyenne, maintaining a wonderfully deadpan expression throughout and adopting a high-pitched voice to convey his child-like innocence; he also has delightful chemistry with Frances McDormand (their conversations are a particular highlight) and there's strong support from Eve Hewson and Judd Hirsch.

The film is beautifully shot, courtesy of crisp, richly coloured cinematography from Luca Bigazzi and there's a great score from David Byrne and Will Oldham that occasionally recalls Michael Giacchino's work on Lost. There are also strong echoes of Jim Jarmusch movies (essentially, the entire film is something of a tribute to Jarmusch) and the script is packed with enjoyably quirky dialogue and delightful off-the-wall moments, such as Cheyenne giving make-up tips to some women he meets in a lift or a lovely tracking shot of Mary rollerskating along the promenade.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that while the ending seems to suggest that some sort of change has taken place, we're not really given anything to suggest what might have triggered that change and the climax doesn't really work as a result. Similarly, the film frustratingly neglects a promising sub-plot and ditches its most interesting supporting character (Hewson's Mary) in the process.

Worth seeing?
This Must Be the Place is an enjoyably quirky comedy-drama that's worth seeing for a delightful central performance from Sean Penn, though the plot never really goes anywhere and the supposedly emotional finale fails to ring true as a result.

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This Must be the Place (15)
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Content updated: 20/10/2017 13:15

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