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Elena Sofia Ricci,
Cheyenne, a wealthy former rock star (Penn), now bored and jaded in his retirement embarks on a quest to find his father's persecutor, an ex-Nazi war criminal now hiding out in the U.S. Learning his father is close to death, he travels to New York in the hope of being reconciled with him during his final hours, only to arrive too late. Having been estranged for over 30 years, it is only now in death that he learns the true extent of his father's humiliation in Auschwitz at the hands of former SS Officer Aloise Lange - an event he is determined to avenge. So begins a life-altering journey across the heartland of America to track down and confront his father's nemesis. As his quest unfolds, Cheyenne is reawakened by the people he encounters and his journey is transformed into one of reconciliation and self discovery. As his date with destiny arrives and he tracks down Lange, Cheyenne must finally decide if it is redemption he seeks ....or revenge. Starring two time Academy Award winner ...Written by
The central character in 'This Must be the Place' is arguably the film's biggest problem. "Cheyenne" is a fifty-something ex-musician self- lobotomised by a drink and drugs fuelled rock star life, who has been hiding out in reclusive splendour in Dublin, Ireland, for over twenty years. It is unbelievable to anyone with even a fleeting knowledge of Dublin that a man with that name could live in the Irish capital and not end up being called "Shy Ann" or "Shane the Apache" or some other reductive appellation typical of Dublin wit. While Sorrentino may have known that there was a time in the Nineties when everyone with a celebrity sticker, from Lisa Stanfield to Salman Rushdie, came to live in 'Cool Hibernia', he appears not to be aware of that Irish intolerance for pretentious whackery would have made it virtually impossible for this bushy haired moron to leave in peace on the Island. Why do you think Bob Geldof lives in London? (I'm just saying . . .).
Apparently, Cheyenne was inspired by The Cure's Robert Smith. Well, in the hair and lipstick department maybe this is true. But, it is worth noting that Mr. Smith has a 'normal' name and still makes great music. I am sure he would be none too pleased being associated with the self indulgent heroin saturated pile of royalties driftwood dished up by the man who previously gave us (brilliantly) Harvey Milk or Jimmy Markum. Sean Penn's latest persona is a limping cross between an Ozzy Osbourne- meets-Jack Sparrow caricature and someone who has somehow survived the terrible intellectual trauma inflicted by a plane crash, only to emerge suffering from rapid-descent induced haemorrhoids. Some will say Cheyenne is more Penn acting genius, but whether it is or its is not, it does not work here.
The opening third of the film is set in a Dublin that barely escapes the gardens of (what looks like) the British embassy residence (!!) and a suburb under the shadow of the new Aviva stadium. Apparently, the "melancholy" of Dublin was chosen as suitable territory for a story that later deals with themes of regret and retribution, leading Sorrentino to move the opening filming location from London. But, Dublin itself features very little however and plays no real part in conveying any sense of the pain or suffering of the protagonist. However, the Irish scenes feature some of the film's best comedic moments, like Simon Delaney's hilarious exposition of his tricks to attract women. The Irish cast, also including Olwen Fouere, acquit themselves admirably but in side action, which seems like unessential stuffing. Cheyenne for example has a mercilessly dull galpal "Mary" (played by the bland Eve Hewson). Mary, a sort of twenty-something groupie has found herself latched onto Cheyenne, perhaps to represent a character balance to the pop icon's insanity, but instead she hovers about like another reason for it. Mary is only valuable for a laugh (at her expense), when a young suitor, who has been fruitlessly chasing her affections, turns out to be gay, thus bestowing the audience with a joyous sense of salvation for the young man's future happiness. The news is broken to us by none other than the brilliant Frances McDormand playing 'Jane', Cheyenne's adoring wife of thirty years. And, yes, it stretches credibility to its elasticated limits that Jane is an active member of the Dublin Fire Brigade. But, if you can bring yourself to overcome this further absurdity . . .
It is really not until 'Place' slowly drags itself and the audience away from Dublin to the USA, that the real story begins to unfold. By now of course, the heretofore maudlin Cheyenne is such a painful article that you neither care for him or his musical past. From the minute the boat arrives on the east coast (he doesn't fly), one feels that Cheyenne almost gets in the way of the evolving story. Despite the mounting odds, a slowly emerging storyline concerning Cheyenne's Jewish father, who has spent a lifetime hunting a persecutor from his time in Auschwitz, ropes the viewer in. Cheyenne's father has died just when he had almost tracked the Nazi down, thus bringing Cheyenne on a road trip to complete his father's quest. Thus Cheyenne remains as the irritating conduit through which we get to meet a host of other characters as he embarks on his journey. Oh well, at least the wonderful Judd Hirsch, who is on top comedic and dramatic form, steps in. The brilliant Kerry Condon also features as a tragic war widow, Rachel, and Shea Wigham is memorable a busy (if disturbed) Texan investment broker. Other cameos from Harry Dean Stanton and David Byrne, however, are not so successful. Stanton's set of gum delph is a complete distraction (the set of porcelain looks like it has been robbed from the mouth of Reese Witherspoon). Byrne, on the other hand, takes over a full scene with a stirring if over-long rendition of the song from which the film takes its title, but he then promptly dies like a rabbit stuck in headlights in the subsequent scene looking as though he cannot come to terms with Penn's character.
'Place' is billed as a comedy and despite strong comic moments, they often feel out of place. As the film progresses the comedy ultimately seems pointless, as the seriousness of the subject matter takes hold until the dénouement, somewhere in the Utah Alps, when all sense of comedy evaporates.
Sorrentino has brought his old cinematographer mate. Luca Bigazzi on board again with this film, which, it has to be said, is beautifully shot. But the visual experience is lost to a frustrating and overly ambitious story, one which was, perhaps, too much too soon for Sorrentino to take on and control, not least his leading man.
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