DVD Review: Mister Lonely
Identity can be a funny thing, and not necessarily easy to pin down. Theoretically, everyone may be said to embody three life identities: who you think you are, who others think you are, and the objective reality. But for unabashedly whimsically-inclined filmmaker Harmony Korine (Kids, Gummo) there may indeed be a fourth choice simply waiting to be unleashed, if his movie Mister Lonely is any indication. And that would be someone else that you desire to be.
Mister Lonely's exceedingly fantastical point of departure, finds the title character (Diego Luna) as a glum Latin American immigrant in Paris, convinced he's more Michael Jackson than his actual self. 'Michael' does impressions of the music icon on Paris street corners for spare change, but with little success. One day, while in a performance gig for hire at a nursing home, Jackson encounters a beguiling American Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Samantha Morton), likewise on assignment there.
An instant rapport materializes between this pair, mutually alienated from the conformist limitations of the real world. And Marilyn invites Michael to join her commune of impersonators in the remote Scottish highlands, where she resides with her jealous French husband Charlie Chaplin and daughter Shirley Temple. There's also a parallel tale brewing intermittently in this fluid narrative dreamscape, involving a gabby German priest in the Latin American jungles (Werner Herzog) and his entourage of nuns flying out of helicopters without benefit of parachutes, for better or worse.
While Mister Lonely is utterly delightful is its buoyant flights of fancy and magical realism when it comes to determined, self-styled identity reassignment, the thin, disjointed story woefully pales in comparison to the remarkable character-rich, enchanting image-laden settings. Perhaps taking Virginia Woolf's observation to extremes that the brain has neither a sex nor age, Korine seems to posit that it doesn't have to have a fixed sense of self either. That is, without tipping over into schizo territory.
And the Scottish highlands colony of kooks where the likes of James Dean, Abe Lincoln, Sammy Davis Jr., Queen Elizabeth, Buckwheat, The Three Stooges and Little Red Riding Hood run amok in a kind of Eldorado of wackos, without ever quite loosing their sanity, speaks euphorically to the many paths to personal liberation. And truly discovering the self and a life purpose through the imagination and dreams, at least creatively freed from the oppressive constraints of social conformity. If only the telling of the tale had been an equal force in its own quest to a narrative destination.
2 1/2 stars
DVD Features: Deleted Scenes; Making Of Mister Lonely Featurette.
Prairie Miller is a multimedia journalist online, in print and on radio. Contact her through NewsBlaze.
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