There comes a point in every actor’s career where you can afford to take risks because you’ve accomplished everything an actor could. Sean Penn has two Oscars and a plethora of nominations (and wins) for every other award that matters. If any actor could take a role that’s fairly out of left field it’d be him; he has nothing else to accomplish in Hollywood. Two Academy Award wins can do that to an actor; there’s a freedom to it, one imagines. Penn doesn’t need to take any role he doesn’t want to, of course, so the ones he does take all have a purpose.
Apparently he always wondered what it would be like if The Cure’s Robert Smith chased after Nazi War criminals.
This Must Be the Place stars Penn as a washed up ’80s rocker named Cheyenne who does just this. With the death of this father, and his inability to be there for it, Cheyenne decides to fulfill his father’s final act: track down a Nazi War Criminal. It’s a journey of self discovery for the has-been rocker, long since faded from the spotlight, as he goes after his father’s final wishes to bring the Nazi to justice for his crimes.
And it would make for an interesting film if it wasn’t for Penn, oddly enough, but it’s not his choices as an actor. As it is it’s slightly above mediocre at best; it’s entertaining but Sean Penn is not that good in it. He doesn’t fit right in the role and the film feels off for any number of reasons because of it.
Given a character of such eccentricities it takes a special kind of an actor to pull it off. It takes someone with a gift for it and Penn’s not it. He’s a dark, brooding type and has done it quite well. Unfortunately a character like Cheyenne needs to have someone like Johnny Depp, et al, instead of someone like Penn. He’s given an odd choice of accent, and looks like Robert Smith of the Cure, but Penn just doesn’t quite have it in him to pull it off.
It’s not a bad performance by any stretch of the imagination. Penn gives it his all and it’s a bold acting decision to make. He’s not known for whimsical, which is what the role requires, and he doesn’t pull it off well. This is a role that his skill set isn’t developed for and he looks out of place doing so. It’s odd to think of someone with his pedigree being so badly miscast that he nearly ruins a movie but this isn’t the place for Penn. He gives it his all, as he isn’t mailing it in, but he’s just bad for the role. One wonders what someone with more of a flair for the whimsy, as opposed to the dramatic, would do with the role.
It’s an odd casting choice and it nearly destroys the entire film. This Must Be the Place winds up an oddity on the casting reel of one of the best actors of his generation.
There are no extras.
Anchor Bay presents This Must Be The Place. Directed by Paolo Sorrentino. Written by Paolo Sorrentino and Umberto Contarello. Starring Sean Penn, Francis McDormand. Rated: R. Running time: 118 minutes. Released: March 12, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.