We can just imagine the many, many, many pitch meetings that took place all over Europe at various festivals for a couple of years while they cobbled together the financing for Paolo Sorrentino’s new film: “Robert Smith from The Cure—yes, the 80s band, big black rat’s nest, histrionic lipstick—is now an American played by Sean Penn in his 50s, and his father dies, so he goes in search of the Nazi prison guard from the concentration camp he was in as a kid. No, the father was in the camp, not Sean. You know: very quirky but feel-good ending. Maybe a third Oscar for Sean. We’re calling it Little Miss Sunshine.”
“That’s been taken.”
“Oh. What about Transamerica?”
“That too. Road film with Felicity Huffman as a pre-op tranny.”
So finally they settled on This Must Be the Place and the deals were struck, and pre-sales made for those deals to become active, and Harvey “Two Slices, Plain—No, Make That Three” Weinstein came on board the make the party merrier, and Penn developed a new voice for the role, his own heady blend of Peter Lorre meets Marilyn Monroe after a three-day crack bender, and… Voilà!
It’s safe to say that those of us who made it through enough of Sorrentino’s indie darling Il Divo to form an opinion thought it was absolute garbage and damn poor cinema; there was enough real drama taking place in Italy in years of Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti without turning it into an absurdist, low-rent Fellini take on Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, with politics instead of drugs at stake. Hopefully, Sorrentino has grown up since then, and no doubt Penn, who is no slouch as a director himself, has had some influence over the making of Place.
Check out the trailer for yourself. Then read some of the hilarious comments left on YouTube. Our favorite, referring to a line in the hilarious Tropic Thunder: “You NEVER go full retard!!!!! He’s doing it again!!!!!”