Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mister Lonely

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Michael Jackson Impersonator Takes Refuge in the Company of Other Wannabes

A Michael Jackson impersonator (Diego Luna) has been eking out a living in Paris by dancing in parks, on the streets and any place his agent (Leos Carax) can book him. However, other than perfecting a few of the Prince of Pop’s trademark moves and donning a felt fedora and one glove, he doesn’t really look anything like him. Consequently, the best gigs he can get are jobs like his current one, performing for the elderly at a senior citizen center.
As fate would have it, also entertaining there that day was a hauntingly-beautiful Marilyn Monroe look-a-like (Samantha Morton). Sensing that Michael is a lost and lonely soul, she invites him to accompany her home to a castle tucked away in the Scottish Highlands where she lives with a host of other celebrity wannabes, including her mustachioed husband, Charlie Chaplin (Dennis Lavant), and their mop-topped, six year-old daughter, Shirley Temple (Esme Creed-Miles).
Michael takes her up on the generous offer, as much because he was instantly smitten, as for the company of like-minded oddballs. Upon their arrival at the seaside estate, Marilyn matter-of-factly announces, “I found a Michael,” whereupon the stranger finds himself welcomed into a community of losers pretending to be everyone from Madonna (Melita Morgan) to Sammy Davis, Jr. (Jason Pennycooke) to James Dean (Joseph Morgan) to Abraham Lincoln (Richard Strange) to Buckwheat (Michael-Joel Stuart) to the Pope (James Fox) to Little Red Riding Hood (Rachel Korine) to the Queen of England (Anita Pallenberg) to The Three Stooges, Moe (Daniel Rovai), Larry (Mal Whiteley) and Curly (Nigel Cooper).
The grand plan of this motley crew is to attract a big crowd of the curious to the vaudeville show they plan to put on, ala the Little Rascals. Meanwhile, a subplot revolves around the simmering sexual tensions which arise between Michael and Marilyn after she informs her hubby that he reminds her more of Hitler than Chaplin.
Unfortunately, writer/director Harmony Korine runs out of ideas of what else to do with his assemblage of familiar faces. Instead of a sensible storyline, he settles for visually-bracing cinematography, courtesy of a collage of wide-angled mob scenes along with equally- arresting land, air and seascapes. At the 11th hour, Korine pull a rabbit out of his hat via a development so shocking it doesn’t quite fit with the picture’s previously relatively light-hearted tone.
And neither cameos by magician David Blaine and director Werner Herzog nor the haunting strains of Bobby Vinton on the title track prove to be enough to make the meaningless meanderings of these famous-faced misfits worthwhile. For, once the novelty of all the celebrity impersonations wears off, the film never gives you much of a reason to care about the predicaments of its cardboard characters.

Fair (1.5 stars)
Running time: 113 minutes
Studio: IFC Films

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