Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

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


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.”

Skip to next paragraph

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.)


  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer


Editors' picks

Doing Good


What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Endeavor Global, cofounded by Linda Rottenberg (here at the nonprofit’s headquarters in New York), helps entrepreneurs in emerging markets.

Linda Rottenberg helps people pursue dreams – and create thousands of jobs

She's chief executive of Endeavor Global, a nonprofit group that gives a leg up to budding entrepreneurs.

Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!