A wealthy pop star, Cheyenne (played by Sean Penn) returns to the states after retiring in Europe. His purpose is to visit his estranged father after a 30 year separation to reconcile their relationship. He arrives home only to find he is too late and that his father has passed away. Part of the twist here is that his father was a holocaust survivor that suffered humiliation at the hands of a former SS officer. Upon discovering these circumstances and finding out that the officer is still alive, Penn’s character embarks on a mission to avenge his father.
This might sound like a thriller of sorts but it’s really not. It’s more of a character piece driven by Penn and the various people he interacts with along his journey. I found nearly all the characters in this movie pretty interesting, especially Penn’s Cheyenne who made me think of what Boy George would be like if he was goth, heterosexual and had big 80’s hair.
The story is fairly well written although I found the ending a little disappointing. The resolution with the SS officer was good but what happens afterward fell a little flat for me. Most of the dialog is engaging but some of the elements intertwine in a way that doesn’t always make a lot of sense, it seemed like the writer was being weird at times for the sake of being weird but without substance behind it.
The actors are all quite good, especially Penn as he does the characterization of the quirky lead in a really effective way. There were times you wanted to punch him out while at other times you wished you could hang out with him. The lineup includes Judd Hirsch, David Byrne (of Talking Head fame), and Frances McDormand. There’s an especially powerful scene between Penn and David Byrne that I found left a mark in my memory; Penn’s a powerhouse.
It didn’t blow my socks off but it’s an interesting, artsy film, worth a look see if for no other reason than to enjoy some great actors.
reviewed by Sean McKnight