By my count, it’s been almost twelve years since Sean Penn made a comedy (Woody Allen’s “Sweet and Lowdown”). Most of the work he does these days, while often excellent, is also often humorless — “The Tree of Life,” “Fair Game,” “All the King’s Men,” “The Interpreter,” “21 Grams,” and on and on. So “This Must Be the Place” is already an unusual project for Penn. But it gets even more curious when you add in the director: Paolo Sorrentino, the Italian filmmaker best known in the United States for “Il Divo,” an atmospheric drama about former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. Does that sound like the right team to make a movie about a bored, retired goth rock star on a quirky quest across America to find a Nazi war criminal on behalf of his dead father? With music by David Byrne?
Well they are, and they did. Penn and Sorrentino’s “This Must Be the Place” premiered last spring at the Cannes Film Festival and will make its first appearance on this side of the Atlantic at next month’s Sundance Film Festival. Here’s the trailer:
At Cannes, reviews ranged from “diverting if derivative” to “occasionally charming” to “bewildering” to “embarrassing”. Wait, derivative? Of all the other movies about zonked out Robert Smith look-alikes who go hunting Nazis?
Nevermind. According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Weinstein Company plans to release the film in March of 2012. And, of course, we’ll see if the film fares better with critics and audiences up in Park City. I hope so. Serious Sean Penn’s good, but I miss Funny Sean Penn, too. Funny Sean penn gave us Spicoli. He should flex those comedy chops a little more often.