EmptyCANNES -- There are probably people who will find Harmony Korine's ragged fable "Mister Lonely" enchanting, but you wouldn't necessarily want them as neighbors. It's the tale of a young man who wishes he were someone else and how he finds a community of like-minded fantasists.
"Lonely" is uneven and doesn't really go anywhere, but it has a whacky kind of charm with some good visual gags. It could do well in college towns where audiences might choose to laugh with it rather than at it.
Diego Luna stars as an appealingly vulnerable young man who prefers to spend his time being Michael Jackson. Not in any sense related to little boys, just as a talented performer with unique dance moves and an odd sense of dress. He's good at it, too, although the only gigs his sympathetic agent can find him in Paris is entertaining at an old folks home.
Then he meets Marilyn Monroe, at least a young blonde woman (Samantha Morton) who sort of resembles her. She's sweet and explains that she lives with her husband, Charlie Chaplin (Denis Lavant), and their daughter, Shirley Temple (Esme Creed-Miles), at a commune populated by impersonators of famous people.
She begs him to join them and so he does. He discovers they all live at a handsome castle by the sea (actually Duncraig Castle at Plockton in Scotland), and a motley crew they are. There's Madonna, Sammy Davis Jr., James Dean and the Three Stooges. There's an Abe Lincoln who swears a lot, a dotty Pope (James Fox) and a lout Queen of England (Anita Pallenberg).
They raise sheep and they're busy preparing the barn so they can put on a big show for the local folk. The assorted personalities and their famous images make for some unlikely but entertaining sight gags, although the film also has dark moments, including unexpected bullying, the slaughter of sheep and the death of one impersonator.
It's never clear what it all means or even if it's supposed to mean anything. Music and silliness get the picture through to its circular ending.
Along the way, the film switches locales for no apparent reason to join an energetic priest who works with a group of nuns to distribute food to the rural poor by means of a small plane. Director Werner Herzog plays the priest in question, and so the black humor of this flying-nun element of the picture should come as no surprise.
Presented by Agnes B and Jeremy Thomas in association with Dreamachine, Gaga and Film4
An O'Salvation production
Director: Harmony Korine
Screenwriters: Harmony Korine and Avi Korine
Producer: Nadja Watson
Executive producer: Peter Watson
Director of photography: Marcel Zyskind
Production designer: Richard Campling
Music: Jason Spaceman, the Sun City Girls
Costume designer: Judy Shrewsbury
Editors: Paul Zucker, Valdis Oskarsdottir
Co-producers: Adam Bohling, David Reid
Michael Jackson: Diego Luna
Marilyn Monroe: Samantha Morton
Charlie Chaplin: Denis Lavant
The Pope: James Fox
Madonna: Melita Morgan
The Queen: Anita Pallenberg
Little Red Riding Hood: Rachel Simon
Sammy Davis Jr.: Jason Pennycooke
Abe Lincoln: Richard Strange
Buckwheat: Michael-Joel Stuart
Shirley Temple: Esme Creed-Miles
Larry: Mal Whiteley
Moe: Daniel Rovai
Curly: Nigel Cooper
James Dean: Joseph Morgan
Habib: Walid Afkir
Nun 1: Camille de Pazzis
Nun 2 (skydive): Britta Gartner
Father Umbrillo: Werner Herzog
Priest 2: David Blaine
Running time -- 112 minutes
No MPAA rating