director Paolo Sorrentino
In This Must Be the Place, Sean Penn plays an agoraphobic, soft-spoken ex-1980’s pop star goth living in Ireland who heads to America for the first time in decades to seek out his estranged, recently departed father’s Auschwitz persecutor that he didn’t know existed. Immense amount of bizarreness surrounds every part of the film, none of it straight-forward or clear in its direction, constantly wobbling on the edge of mystery, much as Penn’s face is constantly wobbling on miserable tears.
It’s a European production that turns into a U.S. road movie, from Italian director/co-writer, Paolo Sorrentino. The cinematography is slick and poignant and vivid. And the film’s meandering wanderlust isn’t as much the problem as the eventual soft landings that the story takes us through. There is a glibness despite the amount of complex, convoluted detail. Or even within some aspects of the details.
It sounds so weird on paper. And Penn, of course, delivers a pretty solidly off-beat performance. But it’s an art film, replete with aspects of comedy, yet for every quality there is a shortcoming. And it’s ultimately not very satisfying.
It should have been weirder.