Mister Lonely (2007): Korine’s Love Tale of Two Impersonators

Cannes Film Fest 2007 (Certain Regard)–After eight years of hiatus, during which he spent time in rehab and established dual residence in L.A. and Paris, American indie cinema’s enfant terrible Harmony Korine is back with another disappointing film, “Mister Lonely,” a wannabe romantic saga of two eccentrics: a lonely Michael Jackson impersonator and a lonely Marilyn Monroe impersonator.

The big mystery is not so much how this film made it into the Cannes Festival’s sidebar Certain Regard, but why would major international production companies allocate $9 million budget for a goofy, self-indulgent feature made by a director whose previous films, “Gummo” in 1997 and “Julien Donkey-Boy” in 1999, found no theatrical audiences and also sharply divided critics.

After a dozen years as a filmmaker, it’s safe to say that Korine is more skilled as a writer than director, having scripted the shocking and controversial Sundance Fest hit “Kids” in 1995 and also “Ken Park” (2002), both directed by Larry Clarke and both better features than those made by him. Korine has also shot the David Blaine TV docu, “Above the Below.”

Surprisingly, Korine’s dark, reclusive years (at least two stints in a drug rehab, and two of his houses burnt down) have resulted in a lighter fare that may be pointless, but at least is not as irritating as “Gummo” and “Julien Donkey-Boy.” “Mister Lonely” would have made a nice short, but it’s burdened with a running time of 2 hours!

Korine has always had a good eye for casting: “Gummo” and “Julien Donkey-Boy” starred, among others, Chloe Sevigny (Korine’s former girlfriend), and his new movie stars the likable Mexican thesp Diego Luna and the immensely gifted Samantha Morton, who must have seen qualities in the script hidden from me.
“Mister Lonely,” like all of Korine’s pictures, is about an aggregate of colorful misfits, freaks, and outsiders. In addition to Michael Jackson and Monroe impersonators, the cast of characters include Charlie Chaplin, Shirley Temple

Inspiration for the movie comes from the popular song by Bobby Vinton, which is played to the credits. Vinton, you may recall, also inspired the title for David Lynch’s 1986 masterpiece, “Blue Velvet.”

Luna stars as a Michael Jackson impersonator living in Paris, where he meets Samantha Morton’s Marilyn impersonator, who’s married. Marilyn invites him to a Scottish castle where a collection of celebrity impersonators have established a commune, one modeled on rural and hippie communes of previous eras. At the commune, Jackson meets the Pope (Brit James Fox), Marilyn’s husband Charlie Chaplin (French Denis Lavant) and their daughter Shirley Temple (Esme Creed-Miles).

The plot then takes a radical turn and switches from Scotland to the jungles of Panama, where Father Umbrillo (German director and Korine’s greatest supporter Werner Herzog) talks some nuns into testing their faith by jumping from a plane without parachutes. The first scene of a skydiving nun is amusing because it is so preposterousand we have never seen it before.

“Mister Lonely” is pleasantly offbeat and mildly entertaining in it first reel, but then the tale begins to deteriorate into a level of grotesque caricature with delusions of pomposity and grandeur until it nearly self-destructs by the time it reaches its conclusion.

What is the movie about A romance between two misfits whose love is pure and whose happiness is interrupted by the outside reality The need to belong to a larger community of misfits that can validate one’s fragile identity, fake as it is A critique of popular culture and its emphasis on mass-mediated experiences, suggesting that we all are impersonators to some extent The impossibility of establishing an authentic individuality in the new millennium due to the inevitable influence of technological, communication, and other global forces


Production companies: Love Streams, Dreamachine, Gaga, Film4 Agnes B Productions
Producer: Nadja Romain
Executive producer: Peter Watson
Co-Producers: Adam Bohling David Reid
Screenplay: Harmony Korine and Avi Korine
Cinematography: Marcel Zyskind
Production design: Richard Campling
Editors: Paul Zucker and Valdis Oskarsdottir
Music: Jason Spaceman, The Sun City Girls


Diego Luna
Samantha Morton
Denis Lavant
James Fox
Anita Pallenberg
Werner Herzog