Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must Be The Place muses on the existence of a fictional rock star. This is Cheyenne, who’s spent 20 years out of the spotlight, living in a mansion outside Dublin. Played by Sean Penn and modeled physically on Robert Smith – the crows’ nest of black hair, lipstick, eyeliner, fondness for black – Cheyenne spends his days watching Jamie Oliver programmes on television, debating whether or not to sell his shares in Tesco and pondering, “Why is Lady Gaga?” Fully Gothed up, he goes shopping in a nearby mall to buy pizza. Boredom is a condition familiar to many in his position. “Why isn’t there any water in your swimming pool?” Cheyenne is asked. “I don’t know,” he replies. “No one ever filled it.”
Cheyenne’s one concession to age is a pair of granny glasses he wears round his neck. He speaks in a weird, wavering, voice pitched somewhere between Emo Phillips and Truman Capote. Rather forlornly, he drags around a trolley, which made me think of Linus and his blanket in Peanuts. Penn does great, deadpan comedy in this early section, with Frances McDormand as Cheyenne’s earthy, practical wife, Jane.
The film takes an abrupt shift in tone when Cheyenne returns to America to visit his dying father. One there, he sets out on a road trip through the US hinterlands, hunting for the Nazi officer who persecuted his father in Auschwitz. The mood is not unlike a Wim Wenders’ travelogue. Sorrentino’s film, meanwhile, takes its title from a Talking Heads’ song, and David Byrne cameos as himself in a very funny scene where he’s ‘reunited’ with old pal Cheyenne; incidentally, Byrne also collaborated with Will Oldham on the soundtrack. Fans of ‘old Uncut’ take note: there is a cameo from Harry Dean Stanton.