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Movies Nick Kaufmann Review by
Nick Kauffman
Mulholland Dr.
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MULHOLLAND DR. - 2001
Universal Pictures
Rating: USA: R

To fans of genre film, David Lynch is practically a household name. It's hard to imagine anyone reading this review who hasn't seen his career-defining 1986 film BLUE VELVET, maybe even drunkenly aping Dean Stockwell's show stopping rendition of "Mr. Sandman" at some party in his or her youth (I'm speaking hypothetically, of course; I myself would never do such a thing, thank you very much).

In the interest of full disclosure, it's important to note that I have enormous respect for Lynch as a filmmaker. I loved BLUE VELVET, LOST HIGHWAY, hell, I even loved TWIN PEAKS: Fire Walk with Me." That movie hit me so hard I had to watch four episodes of "The Young Ones" just to take the edge off. And that's an important point, because as far as I know, no one else not even Leonard Maltin, who gives every movie ever made two and a half stars thought "Fire Walk with Me" was any good.

Sure, Lynch has his duds. "Dune" comes to mind, as does the egregiously over-the-top WILD AT HEART and (get ready to call me a blasphemer) ERASERHEAD (GASP! BLASPHEMER! -feo) He can be hit or miss, much like his closest counterpart, Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg: for every VIDEODROME and DEAD RINGERS there's a CRASH and a NAKED LUNCH.

So where does MULHOLLAND DR. stand on the Lynchometer? Somewhere in the middle, which is only fitting since Lynch is eating from his own smorgasbord here, recycling himself like a snake feeding on its own tail. We have the organized crime subplot of BLUE VELVET (headed up by the dwarf from TWIN PEAKS) the amnesia and identity-swapping of LOST HIGHWAY, and the topless lesbian love scenes of, uh, THE ELEPHANT MAN.

Since Lynch films are always more about atmosphere than plot or, to be more fair, the atmosphere he's going for often dictates the plot he presents trying to summarize MULHOLLAND DRIVE is almost impossible. On the surface, the story is about Rita (the unbelievably glamorous Laura Harring), who loses her memory in a mob-related car accident and is befriended by the enthusiastic Betty (the cute-as-a-button Naomi Watts, who truly gives an Oscar-worthy performance here). Together they set off to discover the truth of Rita's identity, and find out what she was doing in that car on Mulholland Drive. Along the way, we meet a pompous but sincere film director (the hilarious Adam Kesher: the scene where he finds his wife in bed with Billy Ray Cyrus is outstanding) who's being hounded by the mob and a mysterious man called The Cowboy to cast a certain starlet in his latest film.

The story is weighed down by way too many characters and subplots, presumably held over from when MULHOLLAND DR. was intended to be the pilot for a TV series, and Lynch himself begins to forget about dangling plot threads and secondary characters, such as Robert Forster's Detective McKnight, who's investigating that same car accident. By the end, after Rita and Betty get sucked into a little blue box and become different people (I kid you not), the movie has gone completely off track and ceases to make any sense, even the kind of dream-sense Lynch excels at.

It's not all bad, mind you. There are scenes of astounding creative brilliance to be had here, and dialog so wry and straight-faced some of it will have you laughing out loud. One scene featuring a hitman trying desperately to make a murder seem like a suicide, and just making the situation worse and worse as more people become involved, takes the cake as one of the best comedy set-pieces this year.

Unfortunately, at almost two and a half hours, there's an awful lot of padding, too. I found the first fifteen minutes to be an almost interminable bore, and then came a scene of such shocking and disturbing horror that I thought I'd be in for the ride of my life. Then came fifteen more minutes of boredom. In fact, I began to notice the fifteen-minute mark every time, and perhaps this, too, was a holdover from when it was meant to be a TV show - the spike before the commercial break.

As a man who respects David Lynch enormously, I still can't recommend this movie to anyone but Lynch completists. It appears, for all intents and purposes, that when he reshot this to be a film instead of a TV pilot, he simply didn't know how to end it, or what to do with all the characters. It lacks cohesion. And in the end, it suffers the consequences of its own bloated bizarreness.

Two Shriek Girls

Shriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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