Film Reviews


By • Oct 19th, 2001 •

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David Lynch’s extraordinary vision had a ‘use-by’ expiration date. Who would have guessed? The advance audience I saw his latest film with laughed derisively and talked throughout the screening. The exit comments were mean.

I used to be a great David Lynch fan. MULHOLLAND DRIVE is sloppy and lazy. Imagine being in your 50’s, wildly successful, yet still bitter about the high school kid who once made fun of you. Not only can’t you drop it, you keep going over and over the episode in your head. You erect a hate altar to the guy. You’re endlessly writing the same song about him.

You’d think Lynch would find a clever, unusual, or original way to keep mining his obsessions. MULHOLLAND DRIVE is a mish-mash of highlights from his previous works (ERASERHEAD, BLUE VELVET, TWIN PEAKS, WILD AT HEART and LOST HIGHWAY). Yes, it is a fantastic catalog. And this is why it is so upsetting to sit through MULHOLLAND DRIVE. I like surreal, psychological films with layers. I like trying to figure out the director’s psyche. Lynch’s latest work started out as a two-hour television pilot that got rejected by ABC. Someone had a great idea to make some more money on the project. Add some lesbian sex scenes and release it theatrically. Lynch didn’t bother to tidy things up. Characters appear and then vanish. Storylines go nowhere. Lynch just slapped on some scenes along with good old Lynchian standbys. He added the exact same music by Angelo Badalamenti – who also has only one haunting melody in his repertoire.

There is a story – sort of. It starts off with a car crash. ‘Rita’ (Laura Elena Harring) is about to be killed by some thugs but survives. She hides out in an L.A. bungalow. Soon Betty (Naomi Watts, playing the role Laura Dern had in BLUE VELVET) turns up. She wants to be an actress and is borrowing her aunt’s apartment. Betty becomes infatuated with Rita’s amnesia, especially since she had a purse full of money and a mysterious key.

Adam (Justin Theroux) is a hot film director who doesn’t know anything about business. But with his high forehead, deep black hair, pointy nose, severe thinness, and aloofness, can Adam be trusted? (We’d probably find out if this had become a TV series). There’s a criminal mastermind – a midget in a wheelchair in a velvet draped empty room – manipulating Adam’s career and making casting decisions. There are lip-synched songs just like in BLUE VELVET. There’s a man in the moon now dressed like a Cowboy (ERASERHEAD).

Women get beat up by men.

Lynch paints a creepy world that vaguely reminds me of a pedophile’s basement. He crowds his cast in small bare rooms and keeps the camera right on top of them. There’s still a sadistic streak that runs briskly through Lynch’s work. While Harring’s face mesmerizes Lynch, he just can’t decide what his film is about. It’s easy to label MULHOLLAND DRIVE a dream, but dreams do have plots.

It’s sad to say but maybe true: There’s only one character like Frank Booth per career.

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