What is it with Hollywood and unimaginative film titles? In this case it can be forgiven as it refers to a song by the Talking Heads, and not some ill thought out, Channel 5 afternoon film drama. I suppose ‘Ex Rockstar Turned Nazi Hunter’, or ‘Cheyenne’s Odyssey’ might have been too obvious.
This Must Be The Place played in competition at the Cannes Film Festival 2011, and is certainly quirky enough to have gone down well. The film is directed by Paolo Sorrentino (his first English language film, having won the Cannes Prix Du Jury in 2008 with Il Divo) and stars the incredible talent that is Sean Penn.
He plays central character Cheyenne, a 50-year-old Goth who is 30 years retired from the music industry (due to the trauma suffered after the death of two children who took his depressive lyrics too seriously). Cheyenne lives off the money made from his group, Cheyenne and The Fellows (cheekily referencing Siouxsie and The Banshees), which affords him all the luxuries he wants, including playing the stock market.
He now lives in idyllic surroundings in a mansion in Dublin, married to his quirky firefighter wife (played compassionately by Frances McDormand) and also has a few good friends around him. Having previously lived life to excess, fuelled by drink, drugs and having lived through past trauma, he now cuts a sorrowful figure as a depressed ex Rock Star/Goth, with zero lust for life.
Suddenly Cheyenne receives news that his father’s health is ailing and he has to visit America. He gets there too late but decides to follow his father’s life cause and track down a Nazi war criminal. Gone are the days of Mickey Spillane – we are now faced with a gothic Robert-Smith-of-The-Cure-lookalike, always dressed in black, melancholically travelling across America on his own personal mission, trailing his suitcase on wheels behind while seeking justice for his father. It is evident that the journey will be life changing for Cheyenne. During the odyssey he begins to grow as a person. He starts to drink, smoke and even drives a car for the first time in 30 years, slowly coming to terms with his past and his relationship with his father.
What drives the film is Penn’s central performance. As expected he throws everything into the role. Sometimes childish, sometimes pathetic and sometimes very sharp, Penn delves into the part with gusto. With his nervous tick of blowing his hair and his uncertain laugh, we end up loving the flawed character. At times he seems to be a victim of his success and excesses, as well as being a complete misfit, but at others Cheyenne comes out his repression and explodes with either a vindictive act or outburst, which make for rare but very powerful scenes. Cheyenne Ozzy Osbourne’s his way through the film, often appearing neither here nor there, but always has an awareness despite his maudlin appearance.
Overall Verdict: A fantastic performance by Penn and the supporting cast, an unusual plot, quirky characters, great soundtrack and score. However the film does seem overlong and a little fractured at times and has the pace of the perceived thought processes of Cheyenne’s mind.
Reviewer: Stephen Sclater