Written by / 5/21/2013 / No comments / , , , , , ,

SEAN PENN FINDS THE CURE IN THIS MUST BE THE PLACE

year: 2011 cast: Sean Penn, Judd Hirsch, Frances McDormand, Joyce Van Patten rating: ***1/2
In case you’re wondering, Sean Penn isn’t playing Robert Smith from THE CURE, but he sure as heck looks like him – an obviously intentional nod. With long black hair, flour white makeup and the countenance of a shocked deer in drag, Penn’s gothic, melancholy Cheyenne is a has-been alternative rock star who, living in Dublin with his wife… more like a mother, older sister and nurse rolled into one… is taking it very easy in his sluggish semi retirement.

Penn's voice takes a little getting used to: Sounding like a cross between a medicated Michael J. Pollard and comedian Emo Philips (or simply imagine a brain damaged man child) while resembling a black sheep version of Dustin Hoffman in TOOTSIE, he doesn't seem like a real person. But maybe this was intentional to separate him from the other residents including Cheyenne’s pretty Goth girl/friend, whom he’s trying to set up with a naïve, not very hip young man.
Wandering the lonely towns of America
These first-act characters are interesting, and the Dublin scenes have the mellow, involving pace of a foreign film – but soon we’re transferred to America where THIS MUST BE THE PLACE becomes an ABOUT SCHMIDT (or in this case, ABOUT SMITH) style road movie where Cheyenne, recieving documents from his recently departed father... who was in a concentration camp in Germany during World War 2... embarks on a quest (that dad never completed) to find a Nazi living somewhere in the Midwest.

Cheyenne's tranformation from a tongue-tied, jaded rock star – at odds with his own shadow – into a makeshift detective figuring out where the Nazi is located, brings Penn’s performance up a few notches. He also begins playing with people’s minds, subliminally in a Columbo fashion, adding a quirky sense of subtle, earthy humor to his prior mannequin countenance.
Sean Penn and Harry Dean Stanton
Unfortunately, scenes with the Nazi’s oblivious daughter and her overweight son slows down the pace: we end up forgetting about that search, which is ultimately anticlimactic during the third act when Cheyenne teams with an experienced Nazi Hunter played comfortably by Judd Hirsch.

A very pleasurable movie with creative direction and a few nice songs by the likes of Iggy Pop and of course David Byrne, whose breezy TALKING HEADS tune (also used predominantly in Oliver Stone’s WALL STREET) is what this underrated dark horse indie's named after.
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