Offbeat Movies

I love movies that are quirky and well made and well acted. Here you will find reviews of movies you may not have heard of (I will try to avoid commercial successes, but some of them are good) that caught my attention because they are thought-provoking, have interesting story lines, unique characters, and good acting.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

This Must be the Place

This is a movie you have to pay attention to. There is no backstory conveniently fed to you via flashbacks or dialogue; you have to look at what is going on in the present and piece that together yourself. Every scene is pared down to it’s essentials.

It’s a challenge. Are you up to it?

What drew me to this movie was the cover image - a closeup of an aging and intensely blue-eyed Sean Penn in drag. It’s a good image for the movie, as Penn’s character, retired and reclusive rock star Cheyenne, is either medicated, anxious, depressed, burnt out or autistic - or some combination of all of those. With just a little exaggeration and a focus on detail the movie portrays how intensely he experiences everything.

At first it is hard to understand why Jane (Frances McDormand) has stayed married to him for 35 years. It’s not the money - she has a career. Cheyenne is stuck in the past. His career as a heavy metal singer is long over and he cannot move on. But as Cheyenne is revealed, bit by bit, you see his appeal.

When he gets word that is father is dying in New York, Cheyenne ventures, alone, across the Atlantic. He has not spoken to his father in 30 years. Cheyenne’s father was on a mission to locate the Auschwitz guard who tormented him when he was a prisoner. Cheyenne picks up the trail, aided, at some points, by a jaded Nazi hunter (Judd Hirsh).

All of the characters Cheyenne meets along the way are never quite what you expect them to be, from the tattooed man in a motel bar that Cheyenne has a 2-minute conversation with, to the Auschwitz guard himself. They all open up and talk candidly with Cheyenne, and although that is not what people in real life do very often, it makes for great dialogue and great movies.

The movie is full of quips (“Without realizing it, we go from an age where we say: ‘My life will be that’ to an age where we say: ‘That's life.’”) and subtle humour. We see Cheyenne, in full heavy metal regalia, trudging off to the grocery store with a wheeled cart and zippered red, white and blue plastic liner (exactly the same one my grandmother had).

Fans of David Byrne will love the soundtrack, and Byrne himself makes an appearance, helping to place the fictional Cheyenne in the real world music scene.

Cheyenne's quest is transformative (as a quest should be).


Buy this movie

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