Mister Lonely

Mister Lonely


Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

Michael Jackson is working in Paris, making a living by dancing and crotch-grabbing on the streets and entertaining in old people’s homes. When he meets Marilyn Monroe she invites him to a Scottish commune she knows. As they arrive Michael meets her partner Charlie Chaplin as well as other people living there, such as James Dean, the Queen, Abraham Lincoln, Little Red Riding Hood, the Pope and Madonna. They’re a reclusive lot but are planning a stage show for the locals.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, boozy Father Umbrillo is corralling some blue smocked nuns onto his single prop plane for a high-flying adventure, in more ways than one.

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Arty auteur Harmony Korine has got his personal life back on track and his first film as director since 1999’s Julien Donkey-Boy sees him in almost roguish mood. Michael and his new friends are all professional lookalikes. It is a premise and spectacle that instantly brings a smile and imbues the film with a charming sense of the absurd, sustained by some effective sight gags. Except, of course, Korine’s very choice of varied Western iconic figures weighs heavy in his screenplay.

Always staying in costume, their (im)personifications are more than career choices, rather they are extreme expressions of who they are or want to say they are, or how they want to be and be understood. These are sensitive souls who have found a means of living away from the judgements and ridicule of others and the camaraderie between them is touching. Darker sides are revealed, however, as events conspire towards a jolting, though perhaps not surprising, denouement.

Diego Luna (Fade To Black) plays Michael and Samantha Morton is Marilyn. Luna is spot on with his voice and dancing, as is Morton with her speech, demeanour and mannerisms. Both manage the difficult task of conveying a sense of the person beneath, or through, the famous veneer. They stand well above the rest of the cast as their mutual misfits relationship develops and most evince Korine’s consideration of fragile identity, loneliness and alienation.

Korine’s old fan and collaborator Werner Herzog plays Father Umbrillo. In comparison to Luna and Morton the old cinematic wildcard is less convincing and clearly ad libs his way along most of time. It doesn’t actually matter, though, or rather it does in as much as it helps infuse his sections of the film with a very different flavour and tone. Things are far more colourful, free and guerrilla in Umbrillo’s tropical climes. The events that befall the nuns in his charge are similarly more visual, illusory and less cerebral.

Although interwoven, the concurrent narratives do not even dream of meeting or making any reference to each other, but together create an oddly satisfying experience. While Luna and co benefit from much more script and character evolvement and an excellently filmed opening sequence, Herzog’s ensemble benefit from the more striking images. The glorious sight of a flying nun, an image Korine has said was one of his inspirations for the film, is both a moving and a joyous one.

Although the budget constraints are apparent on a number of occasions, you certainly get the impression that Korine achieved the film that he set out to make. If you expect the norm here, then expect disappointment. Expect something different and find a bold little film that is in turns thought-provoking, amusing and, eventually, very eloquent.

Reviewed on: 08 Mar 2008
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Celebrity lookalikes get to know one another whilst a crazy old priest takes nuns flying.
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Chris ****1/2

Director: Harmony Korine

Writer: Harmony Korine, Avi Korine

Starring: Diego Luna, Samantha Morton, Denis Lavant, James Fox, Werner Herzog, Anita Pallenberg

Year: 2007

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, US, France, Ireland

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