Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Mulholland Drive

Film #166


After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesic, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.

Year 1, Day 167

BEFORE: Breaking from the schedule a bit today I’ll be taking the request of one of my friends to watch David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. This is Lynch’s second film in the marathon (Dune being the first) and is regarded to be amongst the best of his oeuvre (unlike Dune). So it is with this in mind that I attempt to watch and analyze this film.

AFTER: Saying Mulholland Drive is confusing would be accurate but I think there’s a lot more to the film than that; both bad and good. I will get into the story and discuss the ambiguity as that is one of the biggest aspects that people talk about but I’d also like to mention some other aspects as well.

To start off with, lets talk about the acting. Oh my how appalling it was. All of the main actors including Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, and Justin Theroux. Everything seemed forced and none of the dialogue or actions seemed to come naturally from these actors. At certain times throughout the film, this falseness seemed to go away and a more relaxed and natural performance came through. These scenes were when the characters were auditioning or acting in the film. So it’s not as if Watts, Harring, and Theroux are bad actors, it’s just that for whatever reason (possibly a style chosen by Lynch) they shied away from greatness.

Speaking of style, something that was most certainly a choice by Lynch was the minimal use of sound and long gaps with no dialogue. For the most part this was done very well by Lynch and the minimal sound helped give the film a more mysterious and unsettling feeling. You’re required to focus more on the visuals which are key to trying to understand what is going on rather than the audio. This failed a handful of times and instead of building suspense and intrigue it just created some awkward moments between the characters.

Now onto the story. What is going on and what does everything mean. Just skimming the Wikipedia page it’s easy to see that there is not a definitive answer and Lynch refuses to comment on the matter. This ambiguity can range from interest to downright animosity. Roger Ebert is just one supporter and has this to say about it:

The movie is a surrealist dreamscape in the form of a Hollywood film noir, and the less sense it makes, the more we can’t stop watching it.

On the other side is Rex Reed who is quite direct in his opinion as he says:

The worst movie I’ve seen this year is Mulholland Drive, a load of moronic and incoherent garbage from David Lynch…

While the acting and style are large parts of any film, the entertainment you receive from Mulholland Drive will be all about your opinion on the story and its ambiguity. For me, I enjoyed it all the way up until the end. For a good chunk of the film, about two-thirds or so, it appeared to be a straight-forward narrative and the ambiguity just made some details mysterious. I was intrigued and curious as to where things were headed and how everything would be resolved. By the end things got to be a lot more ambiguous and therefore much more confusing. Some of the “resolutions” allowed me to formulate theories and guess as to what just happened but there were also others that just left me wondering why that detail was included in the first place. While I don’t think everything needs to, or should be, explained in the end, Lynch seems to switch gears towards the end and take the film in a completely different direction. It’s like he’s trying to wrap things up while at the same time trying to mess things up even more and that’s where my complaint lies. Either make everything crystal clear and tie a nice bow around every twist. Or let things progress as they were: don’t introduce new idea left and right in the last five minutes - just continue with a steady introduction of mysterious goings-on.

In terms of a recommendation, I think Ebert says it best:

This is a movie to surrender yourself to. If you require logic, see something else.

I have my own theories as to what happened and will gladly discuss them with my friend who wants clarity with what he saw, but if definitive answers are all you are looking for do as the man says and “see something else.” I was willing to go along with Mulholland Drive for the most part and as a result got a fairly enjoyable experience. It’s just the ending the shocked me back into a state where I too wanted answers; answers that if there, are very well hidden.

RATING: 3 out of 5