MISTER LONELY(Harmony Korine). 112 minutes. Opens Friday (May 30) at the Cumberland. For times, see listings. Rating: NNN
With its inventive premise, gorgeous photography and soulful performances, Mister Lonely has all the elements of a cult indie hit. Unfortunately, some miscalculations render it unworthy of its individual parts.
A Michael Jackson impersonator in Paris (Diego Luna) falls for an ersatz Marilyn Monroe (Samantha Morton) and follows her to a commune in the Scottish highlands where everyone gets to live as their celebrity of choice. There’s also a wraparound story about nuns who discover that they can survive falling from airplanes without parachutes.
Weirdness aside, Mister Lonely is actually a heartfelt exploration of identity, spirituality and, of course, loneliness. The aggressive vulgarity of Harmony Korine’s earlier work is replaced here by a melancholy mood and a visual style that evokes Kubrick with its detailed tableaux and languid tracking shots.
However, the quest for beautiful images detracts from the pacing; Korine takes frequent detours to serve up non sequiturs like Marilyn’s dress billowing in slow motion or nuns doing bike tricks while falling through the clouds. And many of the scenes at the commune are frustratingly static. The impersonators look great but don’t develop as characters.
Mister Lonely is filled with brilliant moments, but self-indulgence keeps it from being great.