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This Must Be the Place Blu-ray Review

This Must Be the Place (2012) movie poster This Must Be the Place

US Theatrical Release: November 2, 2012 / Running Time: 111 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Paolo Sorrentino / Writers: Paolo Sorrentino, Umberto Contarello

Cast: Sean Penn (Cheyenne), Judd Hirsch (Mordecai Midler), Eve Hewson (Mary), Kerry Condon (Rachel), Harry Dean Stanton (Robert Plath), Joyce Van Patten (Dorothy Shore), David Byrne (Himself), Olwen Fouéré (Mary's Mother), Liron Levo (Richard), Heinz Lieven (Aloise Lange/Peter Smith), Simon Delaney (Jeffrey), Frances McDormand (Jane), Sam Keeley (Desmond), Grant Goodman (Tommy), Gordon Michaels (Tattooed Guy), Madge Levinson (Jackie), Seth Adkins (Jimmy Ping Pong Kid), Jane Myers (Jeffrey's Girlfriend)

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This Must Be the Place joins the long list of films taking their titles from those of pre-existing pop songs. Decades ago, the practice may have been a pure form of homage. Nowadays, there's a little commercial savvy to it.
Consider, for instance, how many people will search for lyrics or a music video and wind up seeing an IMDb entry for the movie of the same name. Looking for Britney Spears... you find Melissa Joan Hart. Seeking a J-Lo song... and get a Nick Cannon remake. And now, the search for a 30-year-old Talking Heads tune could very likely lead you to this international film with no parenthetical naive melody.

Directed and co-written by Paolo Sorrentino, who shot in Ireland, his native Italy, and the United States with a predominantly American cast headed by Sean Penn, This premiered and competed at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. That was the first stop on its world tour of the festival circuit. The Weinstein Company acquired the film back in September 2011, showed it at Sundance 2012, and eventually released it to just a handful of US theaters last fall, conceding this was too strange for a wide release and not good enough to warrant an awards campaign (at least not at the risk of the studio's three genuine contenders). Today, almost two years after its Cannes debut, This hit DVD and Blu-ray with little fanfare.

Penn plays Cheyenne, the middle-aged lead singer of an American glam rock band that disbanded twenty years ago. Though long out of the spotlight and living in Dublin, Cheyenne has not evolved. At home and in public, he is only seen with eye shadow and bright red lipstick applied, a long earring dangling from his left lobe, and his hair in a big unfashionable mess. Whether drawing recognition at the mall or ridicule laughter at the grocery store, Cheyenne seems largely unfazed. Burned out, soft-spoken, and not always coherent, he believes he might be depressed. Jane (Frances McDormand), his grounded firefighter wife of 35 years, thinks he's just bored.

"This Must Be the Place" stars Sean Penn as Cheyenne, an aging former glam rock star still running with his signature look.

In its first half-hour, the film resembles a VH1 reality TV show in content, as we see Cheyenne await a frozen pizza to finish cooking in his large, lonesome mansion; try to play matchmaker to Mary, an Irish teenager (Eve Hewson) whose relationship to him is unclear; console a woman (Olwen Fouéré) missing a mutual friend; discuss his stocks; hear a pitch to produce a colorfully-named young band; and play bare-hand pelota (a type of handball) with his wife in their unfilled in-ground pool.

Then, This changes course, rather dramatically, as Cheyenne flies to New York to see his dying father. The father is already dead by the time Cheyenne arrives, but the tortured former rocker's time in America extends beyond the Jewish burial. Cheyenne's brother gives him the task of finishing a job that had long occupied their father: to track down Aloise Lange, a Nazi war criminal who had tormented the father in Auschwitz. Lange is believed to be in America and 95 years old. Assisting Cheyenne to an extent on this unlikely mission is Mordecai Midler (Judd Hirsch), a respected man of the Jewish community who specializes in finding old war criminals.

From here, the movie becomes a travelogue, as Cheyenne visits different rural parts of the United States -- Michigan, New Mexico, and Utah -- in search of Lange.

Nazi war criminal hunter Mordecai Midler (Judd Hirsch) explains he's really after gold teeth. New Mexico diner waitress Rachel (Kerry Condon) is one of the individuals Cheyenne (Sean Penn) encounters on his cross-country mission.

This Must Be the Place ends up not being the film it opens as, but it is strangely compelling. It's also deliberately weird. This is the second consecutive performance from Penn I've seen that feels inappropriately reminiscent of his I Am Sam turn. Unlike Gangster Squad, this film at least seems assured of its dark comedy stylings. It amuses on a somewhat regular basis, too. It's understandable, however, not to know how to take this film.

You've got this pained mess of a stunted man trying to find some justice for old concentration camp atrocities. And you've got the Talking Heads song of the same name, which pervades this film in various incarnations. The band's lead vocalist and principal songwriter David Byrne even shows up, his white suit and hair making him the reverse image of our hero, to perform it and share a chat with his fellow musician (he also gets a music credit).

Knowing nothing of Sorrentino or his other work, which dates back to the late-'90s and until now has been entirely in his native tongue and country, it's tough to know where this is coming from, what is shaping his views of America, the Holocaust, and Talking Heads, and how he attracted such a distinguished American cast (Penn apparently wanted to work with the director after seeing Sorrentino's political biopic Il Divo at Cannes 2008). But even without that perspective (and this barebones Blu-ray sheds no light whatsoever), you're still able to appreciate This as something different, original, and cinematically potent. Even if you're unmoved by Penn's outlandish central turn, it's a film that lends itself to strong acting elsewhere, as demonstrated in the captivating nature of Hirsch and Harry Dean Stanton's limited screentime.

It doesn't all work. The ending will leave most scratching their heads. Well before then, this is the kind of movie that will get turned off by viewers not knowing what to expect but not digging this. Still, there is more substance and intrigue to this film than the trailer and blink and miss theatrical engagement suggest.

This Must Be the Place Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.35:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($24.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video


Weinstein and video partner Anchor Bay treat This Must Be the Place to fine picture and sound on Blu-ray. The 2.35:1 video poses no problems,
while the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio stays consistent and crisp throughout.


The disc opens with trailers for Silver Linings Playbook (SD) and The Master (HD). Neither is accessible by menu, nor is This Must Be the Place's own absent trailer. That is the extent of bonus features, making this the rare new film's Blu-ray to ask the film to speak for itself. I would have been interested to get more insight into this.

The menu loops an unscored collection of clips. The disc does not support bookmarks or resume playback. No inserts, slipcover, or reverse side artwork jazz up the standard blue keepcase.

While sipping a soft drink at a bar, Cheyenne (Sean Penn) shares a conversation with a tattoo artist (Gordon Michaels).


This Must Be the Place is an unusual film whose commercial limitations will seem understandable to those who didn't contribute to the film's reportedly $32.5 million production budget that only director Paolo Sorrentino's native Italy did its part to recoup. Despite a lead character and story that are bizarre in different ways, the film manages to hold your attention and impress you with some powerful moments. That is enough to recommend a viewing, which is all this barren but presentable Blu-ray lends itself to.

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino: The Great Beauty
New: The Intouchables • Holy Motors • Zero Dark Thirty • Robot & Frank • Seven Psychopaths • The Master • Girls Against Boys
Sean Penn: U Turn • State of Grace • The Game • The Tree of Life • Gangster Squad • The Thin Red Line
Frances McDormand: Blood Simple. • Transformers: Dark of the Moon • Primal Fear | Joyce Van Patten: Grown Ups
Harry Dean Stanton: The Straight Story • One Magic Christmas • Escape from New York • One From the Heart
A Serious Man • $5 a Day • Into the Wild • Away We Go • Outpost: Black Sun • Accidents Happen
"This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" in Films: Wall Street • He's Just Not That Into You • Crazy, Stupid, Love.

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Reviewed March 12, 2013.

Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012 The Weinstein Company, Indigo Film, Lucky Red, Medusa Films, and 2013 Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment.
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