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Mulholland Dr. (2001)

  Directed by: David Lynch
Written by: David Lynch
Starring: Laura Elena Harring, Justin Theroux, Naomi Watts
Links: Mulholland Dr. on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on DVD, Buy on Video, Buy the Soundtrack
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 9.50 (2 ratings)
nofreelist.com Ranking: Ranked equal 6th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

Mulholland Dr. (2001) is also mentioned in em_fiction's review of 21 Grams (2003), mino's review of Barton Fink (1991), mino's review of Best in Show (2000), em_fiction's review of Chinatown (1974), pearly's review of Donnie Darko (2001), pearly's review of The Ring (2002) and em_fiction's review of We Don't Live Here Anymore (2004).

"Twistier than a very twisty thing with twisty bits on it" - a review by mino

I doubt there's much that I could say about the works of David Lynch that my colleague em_fiction hasn't said already below. The ‘genius vs. raving loony’ debate is certainly there for the having; like Mac, I fall into both camps a little, but in a different way. Is Lynch a genius who can create a truly amazing story, the likes of which no-one else could match? Sure. Does his painstaking attention to detail make for truly stunning movies which leave you startled by their craftsmanship? Yep. Is he a self-obsessed arthouse wanker who takes the whole ‘complex storytelling’ thing too far, crossing over whichever line it is that divides the craftsman and the tosser? You bet your bippy.

Initially, Mulholland Dr. is simply a standard ‘amnesiac murder mystery/thriller’, if there is such a thing. Laura Elena Harring has lost her memory after a failed assassination attempt; Naomi Watts is an eager young actress hoping to make it big in Hollywood. Their paths cross, and they rapidly strike up a friendship, embarking on some detective work to work out Harring's real identity.

Then, things go weird.

It takes a while to get a hold on what the hell is going on in the second half of the film. I won't go into too much detail, but the same two actresses play totally different roles for the whole second half — or are they different roles at all?

Mulholland Dr. is absolutely brilliantly constructed, something I can tell even from just having seen it once. From my post-watching meanderings on the web, there are a lot of people spouting a lot of stuff and nonsense about the story, giving theories, and so on. Honestly, I didn't think the plot was that complicated, and wonder if people are trying to read too much into it just because it's David Lynch, therefore it has to be more complicated than it seems.

But then, that's part of Lynch's magic. He can tell a simple story with such detail, with such multi-layered complex storytelling, that you never quite know whether things are more complicated than you think, and you're not paying enough attention, or if they're less complicated than you think, and you should stop trying to read so much into it.

While it's all the little tiny touches and surreal moments that make Mulholland Dr. a delight to watch, I can't help but wonder if Lynch sometimes goes overboard for the sake of it. There are a few moments — and, more importantly, characters — who seem almost ridiculously Lynchian, and it's hard not to wonder if he's so caught up in his own surrealist hype that he can't just tell a story a little more ‘straight’. There's a very fine line between having a character being outrageous, but not ridiculously outlandish, and I'm not sure whether Lynch's tendency to come down on the latter side is always welcome.

For me, the big question is: is it Lynch's story that makes Mulholland Dr. great, or his filmmaking? Honestly, I'm not sure. It's a great story, and it's well told, but sometimes his movie-making funny-buggery gets just plain irritating (as does, incidentally, his painful overuse of the classic ‘tense, screeching sountrack’). It's hard to tell if his use of movie-making clichés, too, is because he's twisting them and subverting them, or just that he runs out of ideas and needs to rely on them.

That aside, I'm not sure Mulholland Dr. would have been the same in anyone else's hands. I think any number of competent directors could have taken this screenplay and made a truly great film, but it definitely needed that Lynchian touch. Sometimes, though, I just wish he wasn't so heavy-handed with it.

Mulholland Dr. is most definitely a film that will require multiple viewings to get the full effect. Having seen it only once, I'm not sure I'm even qualified to review it yet — but when has that ever stopped me before?

Really, I only have two complaints about the actual main thrust of the movie: one, while the change of direction halfway through is kind of the whole point of the movie, I was actually enjoying the thriller aspect of the first half, and found the fact that the very nature of the second half meant that this didn't get resolved kind of frustrating; secondly, just three words: Billy Ray Cyrus.

That is all.

mino gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Tue 27 Jan 2004

"Welcome to the distorted world of David Lynch" - a review by em_fiction

Ah, what can I say about David Lynch? Some people think he's a genius, but others simply think he's insane. To be brutally honest, I think he's a bit of both. He's a genius in that all of his work is idiosyncratic — impossible for someone else to recreate yet screams out his name in conspicuous clarity. But his work is so strange, so bizarre, so odd that it simply could not be the work of a sane mind. Very much like Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier, he's one of those people you either love or hate.

The plot is going to be a very stubborn bitch to explain but I'll give it a go: Betty (Naomi Watts) is an aspiring starlet who's just moved to Hollywood to live at her Aunt's place. There, she meets an anonymous woman (Laura Elena Harring) — anonymous because she'd just come from a car accident which stole her memory. She assumes the alias 'Rita'. They become friends and eventually, lovers (that's right; lesbians). We also meet Adam (Justin Theroux), a struggling film director who's having the worst day of his life. It eventually becomes his weirdest as well when he meets a character known as the 'cowboy'.

We then meet Diane, an alternate character also played by Watts. She's angry, frustrated, lonely and upset, especially after being rejected by her lover, Camilla (an alternate character played by Harring). Diane's emotions become so intense that she ends up hiring hitman. As of there, things start to get really, really weird...

I know this is going to come out sounding terrible and wrong, but please just bear with me: to sit down and watch this film is like entering the Matrix. You're no longer certain what reality is any more — things become a blur and you just sort of stare at the screen hoping that something might answer your questions but nothing ever does. It's not your average Agatha Christie mystery where the things being sought are obvious — no, not like that at all. When you're watching a David Lynch mystery, you wouldn't have a fucking clue what you're looking for. But, that's what's so cool about it. When you start watching Mulholland Dr. you'll follow the plot step by step for an hour or so, then things will imperceptibly morph and the next thing you know, you're lost. You're not lost in the "oh, I must've missed that part" kind of way. No, you're lost in the Lynchian way, otherwise known as the "I've followed everything word-for-word, scene-by-scene but for some reason, I still don't know what the fuck is going on" way.

I'm making the film's structure sound bad, but that's kind of why it's so cool. There's an explanation behind everything in this film, but it requires you to have your thinking cap screwed on tightly. This is what makes the film so re-watchable. After numerous viewings, events will start to contrast and answers will emerge. It's like a complicated math problem — at first glance you'll be but a clue, but then you concentrate and dissect and things will start making sense. I own this film, being the only one I've ever paid full retail price for (because it's never on sale) so I've seen it about a kazillion times now. After plenty of discussion and theory-swapping with my friends and teachers, I can probably say that I know story (the real story) inside out. If you can understand that element, you will realise how brillaint both the film and David Lynch actually are.

Even if you come out of this film not knowing what just happened, you'll be nonetheless happy that you just treated your eyes to a visual extravaganza. To call David Lynch bland would be just as wrong as calling him normal. He floods every single frame with enormous style and taste. Vivid, visual, tasteful, stylish and picturesque are only a few words to describe his artwork and direction — the colours, lighting, music, atmosphere, etc. are all so rich and full of life yet so mysterious and profound at the same time.

The cast is simply superb. Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring are both perfect in their wonderous (and difficult) dual roles. Justin Theroux is also an excellent, underrated actor who should be given better roles than Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003). Mysterious, symbolic, romantic, erotic, terrifying and even blackly humorous at times, you don't watch Mulholland Dr., you experience it. Don't determine your final verdict until you watch again... and again... and again...

em_fiction gives this movie 10 out of 10.
Review created on Sat 24 Jan 2004

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 2
Average rating: 9.50
Lowest rating: 9 (by mino)
Highest rating: 10 (by em_fiction)
 
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