As I saw the playbill, I decided I really had to watch “This must be the place”. Sean Penn with a tousled black wig, dark eyeliner and red lipstick: simply unmissable.
Cheyenne is a 50-years-old retired rock star that still makes up every day as he did in his 20s. Bored, depressed and constantly dazed for the drugs he has taken in his past, he lives in a rich villa in Dublin and hobbles around dragging an inconvenient shopping trolley.
No interests, no vitality, no passion. His hilariously masculine wife Jane, a low-target Latin lover, a depressed friend and her teenage daughter are the only contacts he has with the world.
For the first half of the movie, I was impatient and unsatisfied, because the only liveliness came from a peppy Frances McDormand, in the part of Cheyenne’s wife, who works as a firewoman and destroys him when they play pelota in the empty pool of their garden.
But eventually peace changed: Cheyenne goes to visit his dying father in New York, but arrives too late. After 30 years of missing, he finds out that his dad was obsessed with a nazi-man who humiliated him in a concentration camp, and decides to take over the search.
The Italian moviemaker Paolo Sorrentino faces smartly this uneasy theme, avoiding clichés and rhetoric. Also the road movie part works well, as our rocker borrows a black pick-up and starts a tour through the States. The witty dialogues he has with the weird people he meets, show that he is not the only one who still lives in the past.
One of them is the inventor of the trolley, who can’t wait to tell him how he has changed the world with this bright idea.
Sean Penn overcomes the challenge in style and is totally credible in this unpredictable character. But above all, what really impressed me is the quality of photography, with those long framings of immense lands linked to close and rapid sequences. From the title that recalls the single of the Talking Heads, we already expected some wisely studied soundtrack, and so it is. Moreover, Penn delight us showing his guitar skills when he plays with a boy in the middle of the movie.
It took me a couple of days to decide that I really liked the movie. It impressed me, and I’d surely recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind challenging his own attitudes. As Cheyenne repeatedly says during the two hours, “Something disturbed me. I don’t know what it was, but something disturbed me…”