Critics' Pick

This Must Be the Place (R)

Drama 118 November 2, 2012
By Chris Packham
Google "Danzig shopping for cat supplies," and you'll find links to phone-cam shots of former Misfits singer Glenn Danzig crossing a grocery store parking lot while wearing a Danzig T-shirt and carrying Fresh Step. The shots are humbling and humanizing. In scenes perhaps inspired by those photos, retired musician Cheyenne (Sean Penn), the subject of Paolo Sorrentino's This Must Be the Place, wanders through a Dublin grocery store in his Robert Smith hair and makeup, dressed in black from head to toe, peering over the tops of his old-man reading glasses. A huge pop star in the '80s, Cheyenne retired following a tragedy, now living quietly and enjoying a meaningful and playful marriage to Jane (Frances McDormand). Penn plays Cheyenne with childlike fragility, delivering dialogue with a tremulous, understated affect that belies the flamboyance of his appearance. He often disappears into the shadows in such dark spaces as dimly lit bars, gargoylish and physically closed. Penn is astonishing, creating a funny, guileless waif, infusing a faded celebrity figure with tactility and humor. Cheyenne is maybe the least likely globe-traveling Nazi hunter imaginable, but there you go. When his estranged father, a Holocaust survivor, passes away in New York, Cheyenne returns home for the funeral. His father's diaries document a fruitless, decades-long search for a prison-camp guard. In order to heal that estrangement, Cheyenne follows the clues in the journal across the United States in a dreamlike pursuit of his father’s tormentor. Sorrentino's languorous photography, understated humor, and quiet but profound dramatic reveals coil together into something organic, whole, and achingly sweet.
Paolo Sorrentino Sean Penn, Eve Hewson, Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, Heinz Lieven, Kerry Condon, Olwen Fouere, Simon Delaney, Joyce Van Patten, Liron Levo Umberto Contarello, Paolo Sorrentino Nicola Giuliano, Francesca Cima The Weinstein Company

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