This Must Be The Place reviewed

The Elements of Quirky Sadness

Cheyenne (2011) is the epitome of unhappiness. His days of fame are long gone, but he still wears the Robert Smith inspired eye makeup with pride, as well as his hair up high – 80s style. Certain tufts do get in the way sometimes, but he doesn’t mind them. Cheyenne is a troubled soul: eccentric, a bit slow, and squeaky voiced. He lives off of his royalties, residing in Dublin, and his life is as mundane as it is bothersome to watch, with infomercials and stock market trades. The everyday hellhole of a washed-up artist pulling a push cart trough the supermarket is a true teeth-grinder. If it weren’t for his clever insight in his own inner life, you would quickly discard him as your average weirdo, or retard. But he is not. He knows what’s going wrong. So the question arises, how did he get stuck in New Wave, and why?

Afraid of planes; Cheyenne (Penn) on his way to the USA

My world is broken

It all begins to slowly fall into place when he learns about his father’s decline of health. He revisits the USA, which he hasn’t seen or been to in 30 years, but his father is already dead when he comes to shore. In a desperate measure to reconnect with him and his Jewish ancestory, he soon finds out that one of his father’s life obsessions was to find a certain KZ guard named Lange, in an effort to make him pay for the torment he suffered during his days in Auschwitz. With the help of certified Nazi Hunter Mordecai (great: Judd Hirsch) Cheyenne then picks up where his father had left off, and tracks down the SS officer’s wife and granddaughter, who, without knowing who he really is, help him find Lange in a hidden trailer somewhere in the USA. What happens then ultimately leads to a resolve that is both unexpected and invigorating, I am truly surprised (can't spoil it for you guys!).

(Wheelie) Case of Madness

The narrative sidesteps this atypical road movie takes while trying to get to the bottom of Cheyenne, sometimes lead to memorable moments of picturesque magnitude (great short story material) – and Sean Penn’s acting repartee makes it possible to almost believe every shade of emotional zigzag Cheyenne goes through. However, almost is impressive but not quite there, for a quirky-mad storyline with unforeseeable twists and turns is a hard nut to crack even for a seasoned actor like Penn.

Daily makeup ritual in front of the mirror

What the movie lacks in direction Italian director Paolo Sorrentino makes up for in writing and cinematic presentation. It is admirable that he has a firm vision, with a distinct narrative style, and even manages to give a nod to the Good Ol' days of true song writing – Emo 101, if you will (thanks to David Byrne for contributing the score). 

I suspect Sorrentino didn’t listen to the Suits, telling him to take the more commercial route, and it shows: it’s easy to dislike it. Yet I say, good for him! At its core, This Must Be The Place is bold enough to approach the pressing issues of life in painful honesty. And more importantly, it must take balls of steel to take a certain iconic Talking Heads song as title and theme for the movie itself.