Its oddball heart may be in the right place, but Harmony Korine’s first film in eight years is a right old mess. But what else would you expect, or want, from the writer-director of ‘Gummo’ and ‘Julien Donkey-Boy’, two of the most offbeat American movies of the ’90s that threw plot out of the window to leave you alone with discomforting images and screwed-up characters?
‘Mister Lonely’ is a bonkers, sad tale of a Michael Jackson impersonator (Diego Luna) who hooks up in Paris with a Marilyn Monroe lookalike (Samantha Morton) who whisks him off to a commune in Scotland where James Fox is the Pope, Denis Lavant is Chaplin, Anita Pallenberg is the Queen and others play spitting images of Little Red Riding Hood, Abe Lincoln and Madonna.
Meanwhile, in a parallel plot, Werner Herzog is a pilot in the developing world shepherding nuns through the skies to throw packages to villages. When a nun survives a fall from a plane, she sparks a hunger for miracles among her sisterhood.
You know this isn’t a film that cares much for acting or other such values when a wooden Leos Carax graces a cameo. It’s more a collage of dressing-up box moments that is charming in its naïvety and very funny in places; Herzog is a deadpan highlight. For this, Korine has shed his desire to shock and seeks warmer, happier human truths.
That said, the film is too long, not nearly as funny as it hopes, and some plot elements (what’s with the sheep?) are extraneous to the improvised mood. There are messages in the madness about rejecting glory and finding happiness in love, friendship and faith, but you have to fight hard to connect the nuns to Wacko Jacko.