Great premise for a film – Sean Penn plays a middle-aged rock star who never takes off his excessive showman make-up, who attempts to track down a Nazi war criminal hiding in the United States of America. The movie’s a lot less plot-heavy than such a premise suggests, instead being the typical sort of relaxed, dreamlike daze that director Paolo Sorrentino creates.
The music is fantastic, as you’d expect when David Byrne is the one behind it. All the renditions of the titular track are great, the film showing the entirety of a performance by Byrne himself around a third the way through, then other performances interspersed both diagetically in the narrative, and non-diagetically in the score.
The cast (full of strong performers like Sean Penn, Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, Harry Dean Stanton, and Shea Whigham) all do fine work, but none really excel beyond their fairly thin characters. Penn certainly gives a unique performance, but there just isn’t all that much meat on the bone.
I had a good time with the film – there are some great sequences, the music is fantastic, the visuals are lovely and poetic, and there are flashes of cleverness in the story – but ultimately it’s a pretty confused and thin affair. Worth watching, but perhaps not worth remembering. I give it three ping pong balls, and a stick of lipstick.