Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Mister Lonely. Seen it!

Well, I finally got myself out to see Mister Lonely this evening at the IFC Center. Even after seeing Harmony Korine talk about the movie, and watching clips and the trailer, I still had no idea what to expect with this thing. One descriptor I've read about this film is "dream-like." And while that word gets thrown around a lot, I also think that it's incredibly useful here.

Two separate parallel narratives are the subject matter of the film - in one, Werner Herzog plays a priest living in a small village in Panama, and while doing a food-drop with a few of his nuns, one of the nuns inadvertently falls out of the plane. As she falls, she prays to God for the ability to not fall, but fly. Or, at least, land unharmed. Miraculously, she indeed lands unharmed. The other narrative focuses on a Michael Jackson impersonator (Diego Luna), who indeed goes by the name Michael, living in Paris. He befriends a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Samantha Morton), who takes him to a commune of impersonators that includes the likes of Abe Lincoln, the Pope, and Marilyn's husband Charlie Chaplain and their daughter Shirley Temple (to name a few).

First, the performances. For me, the best performance comes from Samantha Morton. With the exception of her first few moments, every word out of her mouth rings brazenly true. Her emotion is raw, and she feels nothing short of consistently present. She packed the most emotional punch for me as a viewer. However, no one really put in a "bad" performance. Some of them were a bit two-dimensional, but everyone was very certain of his or her character. Everyone was in it to win it, and that definitely includes Werner Herzog. My only complaint about Herzog's performance is that by the end it feels a bit like he is parodying his own character, not taking the role seriously.

As for the film itself: I swung very wildly during this one. On the one hand, there are some moments so pure and gorgeous (if occasionally painful or heavy) that they are poster-children for the transcendent power of film. On the other hand, there are cheap moments shooting for cheap laughs, and moments that strive for greatness but can't quite make it. Those good moments, though, feel truly effortless as good film often does. And the music selection is absolutely flawless. Moody, occasionally funny, and always splendid, the music did nothing short of bolster the film very well.

Overall, it's a decent one. One thing that I was afraid of was that the film would be a high-budget mockery of Korine's style, and make me feel as though my time and respect had been completely squandered. And though there were moments that, had they lingered, would have made me feel that, I do not remotely regret seeing the film. I laughed, I cried, and occasionally was unimpressed. Not a bad showing for someone as unpredictable as Harmony Korine.

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