Mr. Lonely

Harmony Korine was one of those names you couldn't avoid during the '90s, if you were following art house cinema or art snob culture. Debuting at barely 20 years old with his screenplay for Larry Clark's incendiary Kids, Korine followed that with his own auspicious directorial debut, the highly divisive Gummo (which I personally like very much). He had an interesting misfire with his "official" Dogme entry julien donkey-boy and then more or less disappeared from the scene in 2000.

Finally, now that he is a mature filmmaker in his thirties, Korine presents another of his freak shows, except that Mr. Lonely carries with it a softness that leavens its grotesque qualities.

A melancholy Michael Jackson impersonator in Paris (Y Tu Mamá También's Diego Luna) meets up with a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (the ever-luminous Samantha Morton) and is introduced to her husband and friends – celebrity impersonators all – living in an abandoned castle in the Scottish highlands. Scenes of these lost souls living in their isolated world are interspersed with scenes taking place in Panama, where famed director (and friend/hero of Korine) Werner Herzog plays a priest who realizes that the nuns in his charge have learned to fly. (Sally Field is not among the cast.)

What it all amounts to is not something that I've put my finger on yet, but it takes our prejudiced idea of what kind of person would want to become a celebrity impersonator and runs with it. These characters aren't necessarily symbolic. They are, like perhaps many of their real-life counterparts (meaning actual celebrity impersonators, not actual celebrities), simply seriously damaged human beings, and as such it's not hard to see why they fascinate Korine.

Mr. Lonely is a truly unique film, sweet and depressing and embarrassing and pathetic and funny and creepy all at the same time. Fans of Gummo who appreciated that film's sadness more than its over-the-top white trash antics will probably find much to like in Mr. Lonely. I think it's a work of art – a special, highly self-assured, and often beautiful film. That said, it won't appeal to all tastes.