Monday, November 5, 2012

This Must be the Place

Director Paolo Sorrentino's "This Must be the Place" certainly qualifies as unique. It stars Sean Penn as a onetime pop rocker named Cheyenne who, three decades after his Goth heyday, still dresses the part but otherwise lives quietly with his loving, serene wife Jane (Frances McDormand) on an oversized estate in Ireland. The death of Cheynne's estranged Jewish father brings him back to America, and a chat with noted Nazi hunter Moredcai Midler (Judd Hirsch) sets him on the trail of the man who tormented his dad all those decades ago.

The sight of Penn in Gene Simmons regalia traipsing his way across the American mountain west is one to behold. In a welcome deviation from his SOP, Penn underplays the part, giving Cheyenne a languorous stride and a slow, soft, purposeful tone of voice. He manages to craft a credible character, though one without much depth beyond pseudo-philosophical homilies. McDormand and Hirsch make surprisingly good company.

Even at two hours, "This Must be the Place" rarely bores you. It's full of striking visuals, and you're never sure where you're heading next. By the end, though, you haven't come very far and probably won't remember the trip the next day.

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