Mister Lonely

2008, Movie, NR, 112 mins


A Spanish Michael Jackson impersonator meets an American Marilyn Monroe mimic in Paris, and learns something about being himself. Who would have imagined that Harmony Korine, who wrote the scandalous KIDS and made GUMMO and JULIEN DONKEY-BOY, could come up with something so insufferably twee?

The jet black hair, high-water pants, white socks, black loafers, kicking, popping and crotch-grabbing may look familiar, but this isn't Michael Jackson. This is "Michael Jackson" (Diego Luna), the impersonator trying to scrape together a living in Paris by performing on the streets and taking the odd gig his manager, Renard (French director Leos Carax), sets up at an old-folks home. It's after one these jobs that Michael meets a zaftig Marilyn Monroe imitator (Samantha Morton) from the States, and she's mightily impressed by his dancing. Over a glass of wine at a sidewalk cafe, Marilyn tells Michael about her husband (Carax regular Denis Levant), a Charlie Chaplin impressionist whom she met on a cruise ship, and their seven-year-old daughter, Shirley Temple (Esme Creed-Miles). They live in a commune in the Scottish Highlands filled with other impersonators who, like Michael, have always dreamt of becoming somebody different, somebody "better" than their actual selves. She urges him to join them and Michael agrees. Upon arrival, Michael meets Charlie, Shirley, The Pope (James Fox), Madonna (Melita Morgan), Queen Elizabeth (an unrecognizable Anita Pallenberg), Sammy Davis Jr. (Jason Pennycooke), Abraham Lincoln (Richard Strange), Little Red Riding Hood (Rachel Korine), James Dean (Joseph Morgan) and the Three Stooges (Daniel Rovai, Mal Whiteley, Nigel Cooper). It's the closest thing to Utopia for the identity challenged like Michael, but there's soon trouble in paradise. The flock of sheep the commune tends falls ill, Michael falls in love with Marilyn, Charlie's diddling Madonna and for one dreamer, the fate of her fantasy world counterpart will become tragically real.

Meanwhile over Central America, a nun helping to drop bags of rice over poor villages accidentally falls out of a plane (flown by priest Werner Herzog, no less). She says a prayer on the way down and survives, then tries to convince her fellow sisters they too should take a flying leap without a parachute as a testament to their faith. If they believe strongly enough they, too, will become flying nuns. It's not exactly clear what this has to do with celebrity impersonators in Scotland, but such seemingly random association is usually a sign that whatever connection one can draw contains the movie's Big Theme. Good luck with that. The film is really little more than an array of sometimes imaginative images: Buckwheat bathing a weepy Pope in an outdoor tub; Little Red Riding Hood singing and old blues tune along a railroad track; the now-scrubbed clean Pope in bed with Queen Elizabeth. If Korine proves anything, it's that Samantha Morton is incapable of giving a bad performance, no matter what she's asked to do. She's a good reason to see the movie, and perhaps the only reason. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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