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Sean Penn turns in an over-the-top performance in 'This Must Be the Place'

Sean Penn stars as a burned-out former rock star in 'This Must Be the Place.'

By Peter Rainer / November 2, 2012

Sean Penn stars in 'This Must Be the Place.'

Gaston Brito/Reuters

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Sean Penn is one of those actors, like Nicolas Cage, who is best (sometimes worst) when he’s over-the-top. Unlike Cage, Penn doesn’t pour himself into dreadful commercial vehicles. No, his dreadful movies are usually not destined for the multiplex. Case in point: “This Must Be the Place.”

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Penn plays Cheyenne, a burned-out former rock star who lives palatially in Ireland off his royalties and still dresses like a Goth. His mashed mop of jet-black hair, thick red lipstick and high, wavering voice – almost a whisper – make him seem more clownish than intimidating.

Directed and co-written by Paolo Sorrentino, “This Must Be the Place” gives Penn a chance to vamp and camp in ways that are sometimes touching and mostly annoying. A lot of good actors are along for the bumpy ride, mostly in cameos, including Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, and Harry Dean Stanton. Grade: C- (Rated R for language, some sexual content and brief disturbing images.)

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