"Crap! I wish I hadn't seen Ricky on the sidewalk."

"You will be fine for 31 minutes. You will be dead in 32 minutes."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Other than Jared, I don't know anyone who saw Paolo Sorrentino's This Must Be The Place. It played Cannes in 2011, but didn't get a U.S. release until last October. 

Sean Penn hunting a Nazi war criminal sounds like Oscar bait, until you get a glimpse of him sporting Robert Smith's lipstick and eyeliner and hear his haunted whisper of a voice. It's a hard film to market, a difficult sell.  

I watched it the other night, and again this morning. Maybe not a masterpiece, but a fun movie filled with great scenes.  

Cheyenne (Sean Penn) is a retired pop star, living off his royalties in Dublin with his wife (Frances McDormand) and trying to make sense of the tragedies in his past. A couple of Cheyenne's fans killed themselves back in the 1980s, and he still visits their grave. He's given up on performing and hasn't spoken to his father in 30 years. 

Ultimately, This Must Be The Place is a road trip movie filled with motels, gas stations, and colorful locals. What sets it apart is all the sadness and fear, all the regret and revenge. I would explain the Nazi war criminals, but that would give too much away.

There's a moment about an hour into the film that tells you all you need to know. The scene is so calm and quiet, but it has a strong pulse.

Cheyenne sits at a bar, nursing an orange soda. A bald, heavily tattooed guy in a black wifebeater strikes up a conversation.  

Eyeing the soda, he asks Cheyenne if he used to drink a lot.
"Enough to decide to stop," he says.

He asks Cheyenne if he likes tattoos.
"I was just asking myself that.  I was looking at you, I don't know. I haven't made up my mind."

The guy says he makes tattoos for a living, and Cheyenne says, "that must be a good job." Tattoo Guy corrects him. "It's not a job," he says.  "It's an art." 

Tattoo Guy asks Cheyenne what he does. 
"At this particular moment?  I'm trying to fix up a sad boy and a sad girl. It's not easy. I suspect that sadness is not compatible with sadness."

They continue talking for another few minutes. Relationships, gratitude, how life is filled with beautiful things.  

It's not the kind of exchange we normally see in movies, which is what makes This Must Be The Place so memorable, so special.

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