Posted by: greercn | April 13, 2012

This Must Be The Place

Sean Penn has gone for a coiffure that channels The Simpsons’ Sideshow Bob combined with Bono in an excessive 1980’s look?

Yup, you got it. This is one weird movie.

Actually, it’s two movies. The first half is a perfectly enjoyable washed-up angst-ridden rockstar tale, set in Dublin and combining Sean and Frances McDormand – both on great form – with a bunch of delightful and eccentric Celts.

Beautiful settings and sharp dialogue pull you in.

Then, we’re off on a road trip through the United States to a bunch of places that tourists never see. There are reasons you shouldn’t visit those locations. Despite some pretty landscapes, these hills are full of guns, bad food, terrible motels and old former Nazis.

Directed by Paolo Sorrentino, you are much better off seeing this as an Italian surrealist movie rather than as anything else. So many symbols! So little explanation!

There are treats. David Byrne is here, singing the title track, and you’d best really, really like that Talking Heads song because you get a lot of versions of it.

Judd Hirsch, Harry Dean Stanton, Joyce Van Patten, Kerry Condon, Olwen Fouere, Eve Hewson and Heinz Lieven all get glorious moments.

Notting Hill Gate Picturehouse is a sumptuous place to see any film, with its comfy seats and first-rate snacks. The audience is always quiet and respectfully-knowledgeable, too. I learned a great deal about Sorrentino’s previous films while chatting to others in the bar.

Sean Penn could read anything aloud in a film and I would be happy with that. He has clearly put a lot of work into making this a very distinctive performance. He cares a great deal about what he is doing here and how he does it all.

Problem is that I don’t think I care nearly as much as he does. The second half lost me completely. There is, for certain, deep meaning here.

Perhaps I have been seeing too many big blockbusters and need re-education in European film.


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