Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mulholland Drive (2001)

IMDb plot summary: After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.
Directed by David Lynch. Starring Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Ann Miller, and Justin Theroux.

(Some spoilers, because I'm not sure you can discuss the nature of this movie without revealing *something* about it, though I've deliberately tried to be vague.)

Well, this was... interesting.

This was definitely more enjoyable once I'd finished watching it, when I started combing through fan theories. While I'd been somewhat piecing together my own theory of the movie's ending (which for the most part matches the most prevalent theory), I found it... grounding and perhaps even comforting to see people making sense of this.

I found the actual watching of the film somewhat frustrating. I'm not sure quite how to describe my reaction -- between the non-answers and the surreal dreamlike sequences and the bizarre acting on even the "realistic" moments, I felt like none of it had a point and wondered if maybe there wasn't even supposed to be one. It wasn't until reading fan theories later that any of this started come together for me (even if a lot of those were unsatisfying answers like "it was all a dream").

I've been OK with vague or ambiguous plots before. Donnie Darko, for example, was one of my favorite movies long before I discovered there was a (mostly ridiculous) answer as to what happened at the end. But I think where Donnie Darko works for me while Mulholland Drive fails is in creating *something* for me to connect to in the midst of non-answers. The characters of Mulholland are distant, cold, unrelatable, stubbornly undecipherable, and maybe even not quite human. As a result, I felt disconnected through the whole thing and was unable to really respond to the emotional prompting or immerse myself in the movie's moody atmosphere.

Without an emotional or narrative center to grasp onto, I really didn't have anything to respond to in this movie. It was like the movie just... moved on past me while my efforts to find something, anything, to "get" continually left me frustrated.

Reading attempts by fans to unravel the narrative at least gives me *something*. It became interesting as a puzzle, even if most of the theories require you to interpret individual blink-and-you'll-miss-it images as the key to the entire thing. ("So-and-so is really dead and in hell because one time you see them and then a few minutes later in the background there's a flyer that has the word 'HELL' on it somewhere!") EVERY answer to this movie feels like a stretch and doesn't account for huge chunks of the movie, so it's all still unsatisfying and still leaves me unconvinced that Lynch himself knows what the heck he's talking about, but it's better than nothing.

I get why people like this movie. And it's entirely possible that I'll eventually find a theory that changes my entire attitude toward it and makes me feel compelled to rewatch it someday. But right now, I'm not all that convinced there's an answer to it at all, and it didn't make me care enough to figure it out on my own.

2 stars.

Flickchart: #1331 out of 2279, below My Girlfriend's Boyfriend and above Over the Hedge.

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