Mister Lonely

What makes someone want to be an impersonator? Well, director Harmony Korine doesn’t actually ever answer that question, but instead paints his usual tableau of paper-thin characters, playing deeply-affected characters. Korine’s collage of personalities on film is best depicted through his earlier work like Gummo and Julian Donkey-Boy, but he does get a few things right in his latest addition to his absurdist dramedy series.

Told in four “parts,” all named after Michael Jackson songs:

Man In The Mirror
Beat It
You Are Not Alone

the film follows the life of a Michael Jackson impersonator (Diego Luna) who living in France is struggling to find himself and at the same time find work. One day while performing (not Michael Jackson songs, mind you) at an assisted living home, another impersonator, Marilyn Monroe (played rather unconvincingly by the usually fabulous Samantha Morton), spots him and later she tells him about a retreat her and her family have created in Scotland where celebrity impersonators can live in peace and tranquility.

All is not as good as it seems though when Monroe returns home with the new friend. Soon the sheep on the land have all become infectious and must be put down, which quickly sours the mood of life and escapism. Along with that, Monroe’s husband Charlie Chaplin (channeling Adolf Hitler at times, and played by the TOKYO! deviant Denis Levant), indulges his jealous fantasies of his wife and Jacko cheating on him behind his back.

Other impersonators at the retreat include:

The Three Stooges
Queen Elizabeth
The Pope (no idea which one)
Abe Lincoln (if Abe Lincoln had a foul-mouth)
Sammy Davis, Jr.
James Dean
Shirley Temple
Little Red Riding Hood
Buckwheat (who has a fetish with chickens, this I could have done without); and,

Eventually, in a sort of celebration for the lives of their slain sheep, the gang builds a performance hall on the property and stages a variety show of sorts for which they tout “the greatest show on Earth.” It’s anything but, but is also the only time we see them becoming something that they are really not: comfortable in themselves.

Specifically, for me, I was more affected by the separate story line involving a (not-surprisingly) wonderful Werner Herzog as a priest. When one of his nuns accidentally falls out of a plane, while dropping food rations over an impoverished village, she frantically prays to God to save her and give her the ability to fly on her way down. Well, God doesn’t grant her wish to fly, but when she plummets into the ground below, she does jump right back up again without merely a scratch.

Korine comes back to this separate story line intermittently, but there appears to be little cohesion between the two competing stories. True to life, Marilyn Monroe commits suicide (by hanging herself, albeit), much to the dismay of her husband Chaplin and her wanna-be lover Jackson. Chaplin seemed to become more an impersonation of Hitler when alone with Marilyn on the retreat, but then really none of the characters ever truly seem to inhabit their celebrity doppelgangers. Instead, they seem more comfortable in the disguises while remaining their own individual selves.