Review: Mulholland Dr.

Mulholland Dr. | David Lynch, 2001

A limo is driving down a desolate Mulholland Dr. We follow it until it stops and we see a beautiful woman (Laura Elena Harring) inside it. She remarks that they should not be stopping there. Then one of the drivers threaten her with a gun, while the other man that was with them goes out to take her out of the car. At the same time a couple of cars are racing in the road. Suddenly, one of the cars hits the limo as the woman is being pulled out. Later, we see that she made it out alive, but she is disoriented, and she makes her way to the city below the road. And so begins this mind trip of a movie by providing us with the first question of many that no doubt everyone who sees it will have.

Having only seen one other David Lynch movie prior to this, The Elephant Man, the one that is considered his most accessible, I certainly did not know what to expect from this, even after years of hearing about it. I was definitely expecting an awesome sound design, a creepy atmosphere accompanied by an equally creepy score, but nothing could prepare me for this.

Giving a synopsis for this is pointless, but I will try anyways. So, after the crash that I previously mentioned, the woman, who we eventually come to know as Rita, sneaks into an empty house. We then see wide-eyed Betty (Naomi Watts) arriving to Los Angeles from Ontario to become a movie star. She is excited about being there,  and is hopeful that everything will turn out alright. She arrives at her aunt’s place, and there she finds Rita, naked in the shower. She thinks she is a friend of her aunt’s so she doesn’t mind. But later she find out that she is a stranger and that she lost her memory in that accident. And so she decides to help her to find out why she was in that accident.

That is pretty much the heart of the movie. But there is also a story about a director being blackmailed into casting a certain actress for his movie, something about a guy with a little head, something with a creepy monster that lives behind a restaurant, and a little piece about a seemingly incompetent killer.  But none of the stories really cover the meaning of the movie.

So what is that meaning? Well, almost 10 years after the release of the movie, no one knows. There are crazy theories out there that range from double identity to abortion, but the best thing one can do is experience the whole thing without thinking about what is going on, the evaluate it and come out with your own interpretation.

So, yeah, it is a really good movie. It confuzzled (as Max from Mary & Max would say) me so much, yet I was so drawn into it that I could not get my eyes off the screen. This is all of course thanks to David Lynch’s masterful direction and the brilliant script. I’ve already said that the story is complex, abstract, and confusing, and that is the main strength of the script. But the direction is mind-blowing.  The atmosphere he creates is rare these in cinema these days, and the way he handles sound impressed me since I saw The Elephant Man. Also he is great at creating tension (just watch the first scene that takes place at the Winkie’s, and every time he does, it had a great pay off.

One other thing he excels at is getting great performances out of his actors. During the first two acts they performances seem over the top, but once some of the truth is revealed it all makes sense. Naomi Watts, in her breakout role, is so good at playing the small town girl who just got to the big city and wants to spread happiness. And when the movie takes a dark turn in the last act, she is more than up for the changes to the character. Laura Elena Harring has this leading lady quality about her, something that is needed for her character, and she works it just fine. Too bad her career went nowhere after this. The other performance worth talking about is Justin Theroux’s as the director who must hire a certain actress for his movie. He is supposed to be arrogant most of the time, and stone faced on a scene that involves his wife, and he does it perfectly.

Mulholland Dr. is a fantastic movie that everyone looking for an intellectual challenge should watch. But not only is it challenging, but it also features some of the scariest/creepiest scenes I have ever seen, and none of them involve any violence. So, if you haven’t seen it, please do your self a favor and watch it. Just remember that the only interpretation that matters is yours


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