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IN SHORT: Unadulterated, unbearable, unendurable Lynch. [Rated R for violence, language and some strong sexuality. 146 minutes]
Have you ever wished you could live somebody else's life? Not just their job, but all the who what and how they got there; experience their lovers; relish in the triumph of the career and all that stuff? Well, you could have had ours and sit through two and a half hours of pure, unadulterated David Lynch. Mulholland Drive was created as a pilot for ABC, which rejected it. That being written, you'll know immediately where the television pilot ends and the "R" rated stuff begins.
This is what came in our press notes, to explain writer/director David Lynch's Mulholland Drive:
'Along Mulholland Drive nothing is what it seems. In this complex tale of suspense, set in the unreal universe of Los Angeles, writer/director David Lynch explores the city's schizophrenic nature, an uneasy blend of innocence and corruption, love and loneliness, beauty and depravity. Lynch skillfully constructs a mesmerizing puzzle, propelling us through a mysterious labyrinth of sensual experiences until we arrive at the intersection where dreams and nightmares meet. "
Translated to real English: "We don't have the slightest idea." A decade ago Lynch's Twin Peaks teevee show was unique in that it held our attention solely for the reason that we had no idea what the hell was going on. Lynch writes stories in which none of the individual elements of the mystery seem to make any sense at all or point the story in any logical direction. With Peaks, once we missed one episode, we were lost for good. In the case of Mulholland Falls the story is stretched to the point where we, as the viewer, were desperate for something to happen. When it finally did, we were far past the point of caring.
Unlike Twin Peaks, which was hampered by a week's wait between episodes Mulholland Drive can be mapped out if you pay very close attention. That being the case, if you haven't mentally tossed in the towel you may find this to be Lynch's best work in years. We know at least a pair of crits that take that position. We tossed in the towel and know more than a number of other critics who asked "can you explain the last thirty minutes?" Here's the road map to get you started . . .
Rita (Laura Elena Harring) -- not her real name -- has just walked away from an attempted murder -- hers, leaving behind a three car pileup on the lovely strip of road that runs across the northern part of Los Angeles, called Mulholland Drive. If you've got the time while in LA, avoid the freeway in the non-rush hour and drive the length. It's a great drive. Now, back to "reality". The dazed Rita innocently breaks into an apartment being looked after by Betty Elms (Naomi Watts). Betty, a blonde, blue-eyed (and wide eyed) would be actress is just off the bus, with only a day before a big audition with temperamental director Adam Fesher (Justin Theroux). Nevertheless, Betty is determined to help Rita discover her true identity, despite a warning from the apartment complex manager, Coco (Ann Miller), about "uninvited guests". As for the director, he's under pressure from a Mobster producer, Vincenzo Castigliane (Dan Hedaya), to cast a certain "Camilla Rhodes" in the lead role. Finally, up at the site of the car accident that set all this stuff in motion, Detective McKnight (Robert Forster) is looking for a woman with pearl earrings . . . who isn't found among the pile of bodies up on Mulholland Drive.
Except for that fact that Rita isn't really Rita and Betty isn't Betty and Camilla Rhodes has so many identities we're not going to spell them out and Coco is someone other than the apartment manager. Adam is a film director and that's most of Mulholland Drive put in some sort of recognizable order. Except that we forgot to mention the punk hit man, a homeless person in what appears to be a monkey suit, a blue key and a pair of elderly travelers.
Not to mention a dead pill popper Diane Selwyn (like Camilla, with too many identities to mention) and the lesbian sex. By the time we hit the latter, our mind had wandered so far away from any interest in what was happening on the screen that we were thinking "a little lesbian sex would be nice right about now..." The unfortunate thing is, the sex is not gratuitous at all. It is an integral part of the story and the key to the true tale, as all the characters and identities you've focussed on for the previous two hours switch places. No pun intended.
Film students will have a field day with this one. So will viewers who like a good mystery and have laser beam sharp attention spans. For us, Lynch left in so much useless material that Mulholland Drive ran at least half an hour too long. In doing so, it lost us. Unlike Twin Peaks, where we didn't have to come back next week, we were stuck in the dark, waiting for the film to make sense.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Mulholland Drive, he would have paid . . .
There is a legit story murdered in the masses of Mulholland Drive's running time, which is sorely in need of a heavier hand on the editing block.
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