With Michael Jackson’s final swansong This Is It doing record business, there’s no getting around the fact that late King of Pop is a moneymaking machine even beyond the grave. Spare a thought then to all those impersonators who have had to change their repertoire since Jacko’s untimely passing.
Well, that’s what went through my head when I watched Mister Lonely, the surreal drama from Gummo director, Harmony Korine. Made back in 2007, whilst Jacko was still with us, Korine’s indie stars Diego Luna as Michael, a Latino Jacko impersonator working the streets of Paris.
After meeting another impersonator, Marilyn Monroe (Samantha Morton), Michael (whose terrible act reminded me of Leigh Francis in Bo’ Selecta!) is invited to stay at her Highland home – a grand estate and farm which operates as a commune for those lost souls who prefer to live as somebody else.
Amongst those living there are Marilyn’s husband and daughter, Charlie Chaplin and Shirley Temple, Abe Lincoln, Our Gang‘s Buckwheat (who wants to live like a chicken), Queen Elizabeth II (Anita Pallenberg), and the Pope (Edward Fox).
But the idyllic commune is soon hit with drama as the farm’s sheep herd become diseased and must be slaughtered; the locals keep away from the commune’s big talent show; and Charlie shows his abusive side when Marilyn starts falling for Michael.
While the love triangle is well explored, the other characters are little more than decoration or a visual joke (the Queen and the Pope in bed together was hilarious). And, although I liked the profanity-uttering Abe Lincoln, I really wanted the other actors – particularly Pallenberg and Fox who were appearing together for the first time since Performance – to stretch their acting muscles. It was also a very odd choice making a 21st-century kid choose to be a 1940s child star.
Still Korine’s Mister Lonely is a heart-felt drama that’s beautiful to look at and a brave attempt at trying something different.
And did I mention the flying nuns? What happens to them is pure Buñuel.
Released 8 March