Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Took me two viewings to actually get it, but it was worth all the weirdness.
Mulholland Dr. is about a small-town, bright-eyed girl who moves to L.A. with aspirations to be an A-list movie star on the silver screen like she’s always dreamed of. So she moves into her new digs and finds an amnesic broad already shacking up there, but instead of booting her ass to the curb, she helps this squatter figure out her identity while going on big time auditions around town and such. A lot of other weird shit also goes down that kinda sorta ties into all this, but whatever, better off letting you figure out that noise for yourself.
Boy, talk about some crazy shit. First time I was introduced to this was in High School when I grabbed it from the library thinking it would be something along the lines of The Elephant Man or The Straight Story – the only David Lynch movies I’d seen at the time. Long story short, that’s no way to go into this movie and it took me eight years to finally buckle down, clear two-and-a-half hours out of my schedule and convince myself that maybe this time it would make sense.
Thank the lord, it actually paid off, and if you’ve got eight years to mull this thing over, I say go for it.
I guess the best place to start is with writer/director David Lynch, because…well, this is all him. The thing with some of Lynch’s stranger efforts, like this, is that you just kinda have to go with them. You won’t be able to explain a lot of what you’re watching or process most of what anyone’s talking about, but you piece it together as best you can, find some appreciation in the fact that you’ve never seen anything quite like this and simply hope for the best. The upside of this is that there’s a method to Lynch’s madness – it might be a method that only Lynch is in on and so we’re just stuck with our own conclusions and nightmares to sort out as we see fit by the time it’s all said and done, but it’s there and I dig that.
Geez, this is a damn hard movie to write about because so much of why it’s awesome comes with just figuring it out for yourself. It’s very open to interpretation, but after you get through the last half-hour, start rewinding in your head everything you saw beforehand and give yourself an air high-five for paying attention when you would have been completely justified in zoning out and drinking yourself to sleep, you’ll hopefully realize that this is in fact a pretty brilliant movie. And as good as the performances are, the only reason it works is because of how Lynch tells it. Pretty wild the way he takes an otherwise cop-out ending and turns it on its head so that it seems entirely new, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
From shady businessmen who barf out espresso when it’s not up to their standards to that horrifying he/she bastard up there on the poster who shows up out of nowhere in a scene that seemingly has nothing to do with the main plot line, it’s all part of the experience. It’s funny, it’s arresting and it’s sure as hell something different, but, love it or hate it, that’s kinda why Lynch is the man. Dude does his own thing, does it well, and when others try to follow suit, they usually end up failing miserably.
But aside from all the weird stuff, it’s still got the electronic piano score and the contrast between the goody-two-shoes 1950s vibe and the ugly reality of L.A. going for it much in the same way that Blue Velvet did, and while that actually just makes things weirder, it’s all welcome.
And Naomi Watts deserves a big fat paycheck for her turn here as Betty – our Hollywood hopeful of the hour. Girl is given one seriously demanding role and she does one hell of a job going from peppy, Leave it to Beaver extra to tortured psycho bitch whose horror movie facial expressions towards the end look way more convincing than they probably should. Laura Harring is also pretty good as Betty’s unknown roommate, Rita, but she gets away with a lot less thanks to her not being able to remember anything. Also a bit ridiculous how naked these two get, actually pretty disturbing after a while, but, hey, at least the end product was good.
Nor does it hurt that we’re treated to bit roles from Billy Ray Cyrus and that tap dancing, backwards-speaking dwarf from Twin Peaks that everyone just can’t get enough of. And where the hell did Justin Theroux go? He’s damn good as hot shot director Adam Keshler, no idea why I’ve never seen him since. Cool glasses, too.
But while Mulholland Dr. is one outrageously strange movie (I would say “weird” but I’ve about worn that word out to death so far), and even though I’ve still got questions that most likely will never get answered, I can’t stop thinking about it. If you asked me eight years ago, I would have recommended you pick up a dime bag on the way home from Blockbuster to have any hope of getting something out of this, but now that I actually have a grasp on what the hell happened after those girls opened up the blue box, I can totally understand why a lot of people consider this one of the best movies of the past decade. Might be another re-watch or two before I’m on the same page, but this is exactly why folks love David Lynch. Can’t guarantee that you’ll like it, but it’s totally worth a watch.