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.”
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.)