Film Review: This Must Be The Place

There is an odd peculiarity to This Must Be The Place that attracted me to it, whether it’s the striking image of Sean Penn applying eye-liner, or the unmistakeable foot tapping tones of The Passenger by Iggy Pop, no bad review would stop me from watching this film. For some reason it managed to grab me. To demand my attention.

And while I knew the basic outline of the plot going forward, the trailer does a good chronological timeline of the films story but without giving away any finer points of detail, or spoiling any twists, turns and events that happen during the story, I really didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know where the story was going to go.

Ozzy Osbourne - This Must Be The Place

The first thing that really jumps out of the screen at you is Sean Penn and the main character, Cheyenne, he plays. I haven’t read any reviews about the film, but I would be more than a little surprised if film critic after film critic didn’t make an instant comparison to Ozzy Osbourne. Here is a character seemingly childlike, completely unprepared for life as an adult, and yet somehow, has managed to create a fortune, a lifestyle and a following around him that belittles the character. If Ozzy Osbourne didn’t exist, you’d be instantly withdrawing from Cheyenne, purely because he appears too far-fetched, simple and naive to ever exist, let alone survive daily life.

Yet somehow, this character gets under your skin in a charming and friendly way. Because he is so childlike in his mannerisms, language and idiosyncrasies you almost want to befriend and parent him. It’s almost as if no matter how outside the normal his appearance may be, his demeanour relaxes you to such an extent that you never feel threatened by him. This complete tangent between image and personality also means that you manage to look over the fact that Penn, while lipstick’d, eye-liner’d and with hair that looks styled with the old “fingers in the plug socket” approach, always looks like Penn. It doesn’t matter how much eye shadow is used to try to hide the truth, the eyes never lie. But it doesn’t matter. The personality of the character is stronger than the visual image presented and that’s an impressive feat to pull off.

Frances McDormand - This Must Be The Place

Sean Penn may be the obvious and commanding Patriarch of this movie, but it’s the sub characters that I actually found more interesting. Well to be exact, Frances McDormand, as his wife Jane. I said earlier that you want to almost custode Sean Penn’s character due to his innocence, and that is exactly what McDormand brings to life in Jane. She is his wife, but more over, their relationship has the sense of a Mother and a Son. There is a real guiding love to their friendship and the more time you spend with them, the more you wish they were real, the more you wish you knew them.

Sadly though, reaching only a third of the way through the film and suddenly the wheels start to come off. The movie feels very slow. It’s not overly long, but it’s slow in its narration and while the individual characters are interesting and engaging, the world they live in, is not. There isn’t a clichéd shot zooming in on a clock as it ticks louder and louder, time appearing to almost become stationary. But that is how it feels. The story doesn’t have any real depth and the surface layer is dragged forward with weaker and weaker steps.

This is made worse by the fact that, when you think you must be a decent way into the story, only to realise you’re not, they split things up. They break Cheyenne away from his safety net and widen the story into one of self discovery and adventure. But it’s such a change from the rest of the story, from the tone they have already created, that it feels more life you are starting a fresh and it left me wondering why they’d spent so long creating the foundation only to build the house next to it?

Kerry Condon - This Must Be The Place

I was already feeling tired and bored after what is essentially an elongated introduction, that this sudden change was never really welcomed by me. The new story while immensely different and disconnected from the first, did however, continue to carry forward the charm and warmth that runs at the heart of the film and once again, Penn continues to impress with the natural ease he brings to his character. But for me, it was the supportive cast and especially Kerry Condon and Heinz Lieven who really shine. Managing to inject some real emotion into two short roles. But it’s never enough to salvage anything from the film.

This Must Be The Place surprised me in that it managed to entertain me while boring me at exactly the same time. It’s not a bad film, and individual performances and events throughout can hold their heads high, but I cannot overlook the slow dictation to its story. It’s a true middle of the road movie, it’s capable of more but left down so, so badly by the fact it feels so, so slow.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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