The most satisfying thing about This Must Be the Place is that it proves that, even after three decades of remarkable performances, Sean Penn still has the capacity to surprise. Reclusive ex-rock star Cheyenne is a shambling, high-voiced figure quite unlike anything Penn has attempted before; what could have been a loopy caricature is made into something compelling – even oddly touching – by the actor's total conviction.
Alas, he's the only one hitting the right notes in this wayward, indulgent film from the talented Paolo Sorrentino. His English-language debut is made with all of the visual élan we've come to expect, but the pacing is leaden and the film lacks a sense of purpose. What, if anything, does Sorrentino have to say about America, the Holocaust or washed-up rockers? The cameo from Harry Dean Stanton only reminds us that Wim Wenders has been down this road before to better effect, while the manner in which Sorrentino wastes Frances McDormand is simply criminal.