Cheyenne, a retired rock star living off his royalties in Dublin, returns to New York City to find the man responsible for a humiliation suffered by his recently deceased father during W.W.I... Read allCheyenne, a retired rock star living off his royalties in Dublin, returns to New York City to find the man responsible for a humiliation suffered by his recently deceased father during W.W.II.Cheyenne, a retired rock star living off his royalties in Dublin, returns to New York City to find the man responsible for a humiliation suffered by his recently deceased father during W.W.II.
A clear-eyed skewering of humanity at odds with a static story about revenge and redemption...
Sean Penn plays John Smith, a.k.a. Cheyenne, a Robert Smith-like former pop star with wild black hair, black mascara around his piercing blue eyes and a trepidatious mouth finely-etched in red lipstick. He has been out of the music business (and, indeed, absent from the mainstream of life) for 20 years, secluded in his Dublin mansion after two kids killed themselves while listening to his forlorn songs. Upon learning that his once-estranged, recently-deceased father was a victim of the Nazi atrocities of World War II, he consults with a Nazi hunter and embarks on a mission to kill the SS officer still living in the United States. Director Paolo Sorrentino, who also co-authored the screenplay with Umberto Contarello, is tantalized by offbeat humor so low-keyed it sometimes passes for pathos; he's also enamored of faces, and he allows Penn lots of screen-time (too much time, one may argue) for the actor to work his soulful stare into the camera. Penn doesn't quite work his way into the viewer's heart, however, and this is the fault of the filmmaker, who unfolds his highly unlikely story very slowly and with a great deal of artistic flourish (i.e., pretension). Cinematographer Luca Bigazzi's camera swoops and glides around barren landscapes and empty rooms with amusingly smooth panache, but the audience isn't picking up on anything substantial except for the technique. Penn goes out on a limb with his performance--talking in a prissy-timid yet direct way that recalls Andy Warhol's pattern of speech--but, in the end, the role is a costume, and many other actors could have played John Smith--and perhaps improved upon it. Sorrentino wants to make us laugh and squirm and take pause. He wants to break our hearts over the course of the lead character's picaresque journey, but there's no truth in it. *1/2 from ****
- Nov 12, 2016
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