Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Mister Lonely

Illustration for article titled Mister Lonely

Harmony Korine's Mister Lonely stars Diego Luna as a Mexican Michael Jackson impersonator who toils in relative obscurity on the streets of Paris until one day, while entertaining at an old folks' home, he meets "Marilyn Monroe" (played by Samantha Morton). "Marilyn" invites "Michael" to join her at a Scottish commune where she lives with her husband "Charlie Chaplin" (played by Denis Lavant) and a host of other good-hearted celebrity wannabes. Meanwhile, in a Central American village—and in an entirely unrelated story—a group of skydiving nuns spreads the Gospel via airborne stunts and the occasional miracle.

Mister Lonely isn't moviemaking in a conventional sense; it's more tableaux-building. Writer-director Korine apparently imagined how neat it would be to watch Buckwheat give the Pope a bath, or Madonna sob into James Dean's shoulder while a bunch of men in blue jumpsuits fire rifles into a livestock pen. Then he made it so. Although the movie does have something that could pass for a plot—involving Lavant's jealousy over Morton's growing attachment to Luna—between the cast's mumbling improvisations and Korine's self-indulgent digressions, nothing about the film demands emotional involvement in the characters or what happens to them. Luna delivers an opening narration about how he's always wanted "to be someone else… to be less ordinary," but aside from exploiting their images, Korine doesn't seem to have given much thought to why this particular group of celebrities belongs in the same frame, or what their juxtaposition is meant to demonstrate.

Mister Lonely has its moments of wonder and beauty, but the film is obscure by design, and meant to appeal to those who favor the alternative canon of directing greats: the one that includes the likes of Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch, Crispin Glover, John Cassavetes, Claire Denis, Abel Ferrara, and Vincent Gallo. Korine clearly wants to be on that list too—though at the moment, the best he can do is pretend.