This Must Be the Place

Directed By: Paolo Sorrentino

Starring: Sean Penn, Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, Eve Hewson, Kerry Condon, and Harry Dean Stanton

"Something's not quite right here.  I don't know what, but something."
-Cheyenne (Sean Penn)

That quote perfectly captures my mindset after seeing the trailer for Paolo Sorrentino's This Must Be the Place.  I doubt anyone is genuinely interested in watching a road trip movie on some middle-aged rocker in retirement.  Who really wants to see a movie on a Marilyn Manson look-a-like aged by 15 years?  It just doesn't seem like a terribly appealing film.  Despite my sensible opposition to this movie, I have seen it and have a few things to say about this weird one.

Wealthy retired rock star Cheyenne (Penn) is living the dream in Dublin, Ireland.  He doesn't work.  He hangs out with his friends and family all day.  He gets plenty of time with his wife Jane (Frances McDormand) when she's not saving lives as a firefighter.  The problem is that Cheyenne still hasn't quite grown up.  He still dresses like a rock star in effeminate clothing and does nothing that would suggest that he's a mature adult.  Having lived this reclusive life for two decades now, Cheyenne needs to get out of Dublin for a little while and get some fresh air.  He is suffering from boredom and needs to get a new perspective on life.

Unfortunately, Cheyenne gets the opportunity to do so when his father falls seriously ill.  Though they haven't spoken in 30 years since Cheyenne was actually a 15-year-old boy, Cheyenne rushes to New York to say goodbye to his father.  When he gets there, his father has already passed away.  While in New York, Cheyenne learns that his father is a Holocaust survivor and that he spent the better part of his life pursuing the Nazi who persecuted him in an Auschwitz concentration camp so many years ago.  Cheyenne also learns that this Nazi war criminal by the name of Aloise Lange (Heinz Lieven) happens to be alive today and in the US.  Now, Cheyenne intends to hunt down and kill the man who persecuted his father.

This Must Be the Place is a film that's really a late coming of age film.  It's all about Cheyenne finally building some semblance of a connection between himself and his father, finally taking off all the awful effeminate clothing and makeup, and finally growing up.  It's all 20 years overdue.  Director Paolo Sorrentino has assembled a strong cast for this indie drama.  They all deliver somewhat enjoyable performances that are peppered with plenty of humor, especially Frances McDormand.  However, the film can't escape the fact that nobody cares about childish, washed up rock stars (with the exception of reality TV fans who probably spend very little time in indie theaters).  There's an inescapable, underlying sense that This Must Be the Place is not really worthwhile, and it's true to an extent.

The biggest problem for This Must Be the Place is not the aloof, overly feminine character Sean Penn is portraying.  It's the fact that the film has too many slow periods.  While Sorrentino sprinkles nuggets of humor throughout the film, he really drags the plot of this film out.  A lot of time is wasted on events and characters that do nothing to advance the storyline of the movie.  If Sorrentino were to cut 30 minutes of the fluff that doesn't advance the storyline out of the film, he would have a leaner, meaner film.  This Must Be the Place would have been so much better if it were just shorter.

There's something that's just not right about This Must Be the Place.  Like Cheyenne, it's expectedly aloof.  It's a little boring.  It's ultimately underwhelming.  Despite somewhat enjoyable performances, the movie falls flat in many ways.  This Must Be the Place gets a 0.09% rating.  Have some whiskey sours with this one.