This Must Be the Place
This Must Be the Place is such an odd little movie that you spend most of the running time trying to decide if you are enjoying it or not. And for all of its truly weird quirks – and there are lots of them – the answer is mostly yes.
The basic storyline is almost too bonkers to believe. Sean Penn plays Cheyenne, an aging former goth rocker (think Robert Smith of the Cure meets The Osbornes-era Ozzy) who is living in quiet depressive normality, until he returns to the United States for his father’s funeral and ends up searching for the Nazi guard who was his dad’s obsession.
However, the movie is not a tasteless revenge comedy as the story could be in less capable hands, instead it is a thoughtful and rather devastating drama.
The confusing dichotomy of the film is due as much as anything else to Penn’s performance. I can’t decide for sure if it is brilliant or merely precious, annoying and mannered, but I’m leaning towards tour de force.
Cheyenne is a man who is living in slow motion: walking, talking, reacting to everything a beat or two too slowly, his voice a high whine, his laugh an uncomfortable cackle. Surprisingly, the story suggests that his lethargy is not drug-induced. This is a man who is numb to the world, mostly through his own depression and feelings of guilt. And yet, shockingly, as you watch him you realize that instead of rock-star jadedness, Cheyenne is a bit of an innocent and basically good hearted, but struggling with a world he feels completely cut off from.
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