Mister Lonely (IFC Films, NR)

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film_lonely_sm.jpgThough the actual idea of Mister Lonely sounds a lot easier to swallow, I can't help but express some disappointment in the straightforwardness and earnestness Korine takes with his film, a sedated comedy that's both alluring and stupid in alternating sequences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Mister Lonely, the new film by Harmony Korine, was announced to make its world premiere at last year's Cannes Film Festival, very little was known about the film other than that Diego Luna would be playing a character named Michael Jackson and Samantha Morton would be Marilyn Monroe. The thought sounded both dreadful and enticing, bringing speculation as to whether Korine's claim to have kicked drugs was just hearsay. When the film finally screened, it looked as if the possible oddity of Korine—famous for writing Kids and directing the notoriously awful cult classic Gummo, both starring then-girlfriend Chloë Sevigny—crafting a fantasy world wherein Michael Jackson and Marilyn would cohabitate was unfounded. The actors weren't playing the real deal but impersonators who convened in a commune occupied by, among others, a fake Madonna, Pope John Paul II, Sammy David Jr. and Buckwheat from Little Rascals. Though the actual idea of Mister Lonely sounds a lot easier to swallow, I can't help but express some disappointment in the straightforwardness and earnestness Korine takes with his film, a sedated comedy that's both alluring and stupid in alternating sequences.

Out of everything, Korine's wonderfully assembled cast stands as the most astonishing aspect of Mister Lonely. Both Luna and Morton effectively underplay their parts with Denis Lavant (Beau travail, Tuvalu) as Charlie Chaplin and Richard Strange of The Doctors of Madness as a foul-mouthed Abraham Lincoln supplying the over-the-top spark needed to hold the audience's interest. Mister Lonely is also notable in reteaming James Fox and Anita Pallenberg, as the pope and Queen Elizabeth respectively, nearly 40 years after acting together in Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell's Performance. Filmmakers Werner Herzog (who also starred in Korine's Julien Donkey-Boy and whose Even Dwarfs Started Small is an obvious influence on Mister Lonely) and Leos Carax (Pola X, Lovers on the Bridge) also have bit parts.

As a film, though, Mister Lonely, whose chapter divides are named after Michael Jackson songs, isn't nearly as impressive as its cast. There certainly are moments of cinematic exuberance, particularly during one scene when a cloistered nun falls out of a helicopter. Korine definitely has a visual eye with which he intends to make up for the lack of real substance throughout the film. As a screenwriter, Korine is pretty obvious, something that probably wouldn't surprise you after seeing Kids. Even when he appears to be going over the edge, he never really is. What Mister Lonely lacks is the sense of risk that he showed in Gummo. Although Gummo was pretty ghastly, it managed to, at the very least, provoke a response, whereas Mister Lonely simply coasts on humdrum with the occasional flicker of interest. | Joe Bowman

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