Ok, so no joke, the main reason why I wanted to see This Must Be the Place was to see Sean Penn in that over powering, crazy black wig. His character, Cheyenne, looks like a haggard, wrinkled Cher. It’s hilarious! Well, I also saw David Byrne and Francis McDormand in the previews, so cha-ching, sold!
Besides seeing Penn look like he was auditioning for RuPaul’s Drag Race, I also witnessed a character driven piece that depicted the resounding theme of puer aeternus.
Put on your smarty pants! Puer aeternus is Latin for “eternal boy,” essentially a refusal to grow up, otherwise known as “Peter Pan syndrome.” I know I’m throwing you guys a curve ball by tossing Latin in your face this week, (considering my last blog was about Krang’s resemblance to Mit Romney) but it’s relevant so throw me a friggin os (I just looked up the Latin word for bone, apparently it’s os). This theme can also be stretched as a refusal to move forward, which we see in the characters Cheyenne interacts with throughout the film. Before we wonder too deep into the rabbit hole, let me give you a brief synopsis of the film.
Retired Goth star, Cheyenne, lives in Dublin, Ireland with his sunny and loving wife, Jane (McDormand) in their massive castle. Within the first fifteen minutes of the film, you see he is going through some sort of mid-life crisis. His anguish is exacerbated when he returns home to the U.S. for his estranged father’s funeral. The story kicks off when he discovers his Orthodox Jewish father, whom he hadn’t spoke to in over thirty years, had dedicated his life to find his Nazi tormentor from Auschwitz. With the help of his father’s friend Mordecai Midler, (Judd Hirsch) he seeks vengeance and finds himself in Utah in an attempt to hunt this Nazi down.
As the man hunt unfolds, he makes connections with average, everyday people who, similar to Cheyenne, clearly are holding on to internal suffering which prohibits them from progressing. Along with the characters, the storyline is another thing that refuses to advance.
As thought provoking as this movie is, it gets knocked down a peg (in my book) because the story line is sluggish and a bit morose. I enjoy a good “slow-pouring” movie but by the end of This Must Be the Place, I was almost asleep. Director Paolo Sorrentino does a great job of imbibing loneliness and isolation by setting most of the film in the barren landscape of Utah, but the setting, paired with Cheyenne’s meek baby voice, made for a bit of a yawn fest.
There were also a few parts in the movie that were super confusing. For example, there’s a scene where Cheyenne is drinking too much Jagermeister in a cabin, passes out and awakens to find a large white buffalo staring at him through a window. Um, I’m sure that’s a metaphor for something but I have no idea what the heck it is, and who’s cabin is he in? I saw the movie with my buddy Arthur and I asked him if he had any clue. He did not. We were both mystified. I kind of hate when directors go that extra mile to be artsy and deep, it’s like, no ass-hole you’re confusing the shit out of your audience, knock it off.
Sorry, I went on a rant there! The movie wasn’t terrible. Sorrentino, who wrote the movie too, kept it light at times and his comedic voice was definitely heard. There were lots of chuckles sprinkled throughout the theater at various parts of the film and I totally guffawed out loud more than once.
Cheyenne’s character evolves throughout his journey and you see him grow into the man he wants to be. His character development along with Penn’s acting strength, and the superb acting abilities of the supporting cast, makes for a satiating movie experience. The soundtrack is pretty great, too. There are about five different versions of the Talking Heads song, “This Must Be the Place.” (I wonder how they came up with the title of the movie.) Just don’t go to the theater on a full stomach or a pint of heavy beer in you (oops) or you’ll struggle to get through the long-winded plot. It’s currently playing at the Music Box Theater and I assume additional venues will be added in the Chicagoland area. Enjoy!