'This Must Be The Place' follows Sean Penn as Cheyenne, a former rock star with a penchant for cherry red lipstick, black eyeliner and impressive jet-black bouffant hair. Living out his retirement in a grand Dublin mansion with his wife (Frances McDormand), he’s suddenly dragged out of his stupor when his estranged father in New York passes away.
After going to see his family on the other side of the pond, Cheyenne finds out a dark secret about his Jewish father. He sets out on a physically and mentally gruelling journey through the Midwest to exact his father’s revenge against an elderly Nazi war criminal from Auschwitz.
The portrait of the depressed, aged rock star is part Robert Smith, part slow and doddering Ozzy Osbourne. Penn steals absolutely every scene he’s in and although it’s an incredibly affected performance, it’s a remarkable transformation, similar to 'Milk', showing the actor’s range and adaptability. It’s clear that Penn has fun with this role, really letting himself get lost in the character of former rock god Cheyenne.
Cheyenne’s wife Jane is played by the excellent Frances McDormand, who adds a comedic touch to the narrative as Cheyenne’s dedicated lover/carer. She’s joined by similarly first-rate actors Harry Dean Stanton and Judd Hirsch, as well as the lesser known, but equally as talented Irish actresses Eve Hewson and Kerry Condon. There’s a rather inexplicable and jarring cameo from Talking Heads star David Byrne, who also composed the score, but he’s the only character who feels out of place within the film.
The inclusion of the Holocaust in the narrative is interesting and unique, but ultimately flawed in its execution. Italian director Paolo Sorrentino tries to juxtapose the frivolous world of fame and pop music with one of the most significant human tragedies of modern times. But the plot feels forced and it’s impossible to feel any credibility in the idea of a goth ex-rock star transforming into a Nazi hunter hellbent on vengeance.
Cheyenne is almost childlike and begins the film fully immersed in his self-involved bubble. For him to then unexpectedly take on his father’s life-long mission of retribution does feel rather incongruous. The relationship between father and son is a key element to the drama and develops as the softly spoken and philosophical Cheyenne seeks acceptance from his father, but it’s a futile and problematic mission as it’s too late for the pair to ever reconcile.
Sorrentino has a beautiful eye and the minimalist cinematography is simply stunning, especially the scenes of Cheyenne’s American road trip. Walking a fine line between quirky charm and annoying pretension, 'This Must Be The Place' floats along, at times dragging and reflecting the lead’s own slow depressive nature. It’s beautifully absurd, and certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but it more than proves Sorrentino’s aptitude as a director and Sean Penn’s unique ability to fully inhabit a character. A truly extraordinary road movie, although not for those with a short attention span.
- Deleted scenes
- Cast interviews
- Exclusive viral clips
- Extended David Byrne Music Sequence
The extended "international Cannes cut" (reviewed here) accompanies the UK theatrical release on the UK DVD and Blu-ray of 'This Must Be The Place', which is out now and available to purchase from amazon.co.uk.