Courtesy: Universal PicturesNaomi Watts and Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive.
Here is what I gather this time around: The film starts out in a limousine late one night in the Hollywood Hills. Rita (so called, and played by Laura Harring) faces her driver at gunpoint, when a car filled with screaming teenager’s crashes into them. Out of the wreckage walks Rita, disoriented and with no memory of her identity. She finds shelter in the home of a random woman who has left on business. Meanwhile Naomi Watts plays Betty, a bright-eyed young actress arriving to Hollywood seeking fame. She stays in her aunt's home, which happens to be the same house in which Rita is hiding. Betty is surprised to see Rita, standing frozen in the shower, but assumes that she is a friend of her aunt's. But when she speaks to her aunt and discovers that Rita is no friend at all, she decides to help the stranger anyway. Betty is curious about Rita's predicament and naively wants to help her link together her story. "Just like in the movies," Betty says. Their investigation leads them to another apartment where a woman lays dead. The identity of the dead woman, or how Rita knows her, is a mystery.
Meanwhile, in another scene, a slick movie director refuses to cast a certain actress in his upcoming movie, despite the pressure from two deranged Mafia men. And in another, an unnamed man confronts a nightmarish dream in the back of a diner.
And that is the most concrete narrative you'll get, the only road map for Mulholland Drive. Proceed at your own risk. Surreal imagery and bizarre characters cross paths in random, nonsensical ways. Characters change identities and settings overlap; one feels submerged in a bizarre dream, filled with love, treachery and impending doom. In other words, a David Lynch experience!
I spent a few classes in college studying Lynch. His films tend to spark academic discussion, typically involving a Freud reference or two. Say what you will about the limitless interpretations of dreams. Lynch has carved out a very successful career as a film auteur that challenges his audience with very strange stuff from the subconscious.
It's not for everyone . . . and I don't mean that as a euphemism. I really don't think there's a conventional, or predictable response to his films. That's what makes them interesting. It also makes Lynch box office poison. He's not a commercial director, and Mulholland Drive floundered on the big screen, grossing a little over $7 million domestically. His are not the movies you eagerly curl up on the couch to watch.
But I'm definitely a fan. Blue Velvet, Eraserhead and The Elephant Man are phenomenal films. I was totally wigged out by Lost Highway. Twin Peaks was a trip as well! And it was great seeing a cameo from Michael J. Anderson in Mulholland Drive; he was the little man from the series. Here's a taste of what you're missing:
Naomi Watts is great. It's not a star-making role, but she makes it a star-turning performance. She plays Lynch's campy and innocent dialogue with an urgency that never seems cheated. Which is important when the film lends itself to a few false realities. Ten years later, Lynch's mystical ode to Hollywood is as bizarre as ever. Check it out, if you dare!
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