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Movie review: 'This Must Be the Place' is all over the place

Published December 21, 2012 11:41 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

"Meandering" doesn't begin to describe "This Must Be the Place," writer-director Paolo Sorrentino's skewed look at America through the eyes of one of its strangest citizens.

That would be Cheyenne (Sean Penn), a wealthy, wispy-voiced, eyeliner-abusing ex-pop star living with his wife (Frances McDormand) in Ireland. He's rather aimless in life, until the death of his father in America gives him a mission of sorts: hunting down the Nazi concentration-camp guard who tormented Cheyenne's father during the Holocaust.

Cheyenne's journey takes him across America (even stopping in Huntsville, Utah), but it's such a slow, wandering trip that one questions whether his heart is in it.

Sorrentino (co-writing with Umberto Contarello) takes tangents to discuss parental relationships, roam the highways and play several variations on the title song — including one performed by its creator, David Byrne (who's depicted as one of Cheyenne's old rocker pals). If there's a point here, it's lost in the weeds of Sorrentino's pretty vistas and Penn's sweetly unhinged performance.

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'This Must Be the Place'

Opens Friday, Dec. 21, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated R for language, some sexual content and brief disturbing images; 118 minutes.