“Mulholland Dr.” (2001) – 3.5/5 Stars


David Lynch’s “Mulholland Dr.” is like one of those video games that the programmers make so amazing yet so impossibly difficult that in order to be fully satisfied you’re forced to buy one of those walkthrough game guides. The film might be a masterpiece, but it’s a Rubix cube of surrealism that prefers to leave you with more questions than answers.

Psychological thriller barely begins describing “Mulholland Dr.” Most notably, Lynch has no lack of ability to create suspense. Despite being a total mindfudge (implication of more explicit language necessary), the film is completely gripping and will not lose any viewer for a second. You could argue the beginning is not very deliberate, but to understand the film everything is essential.

On Mulholland Dr. a woman (Laura Elena Harring) survives a fatal car accident but is left with amnesia, wandering her way to an apartment of a woman heading out of town who happens to be the aunt of Betty (Naomi Watts) a starry-eyed aspiring actress who has come to stay in LA while her aunt is gone. Together, the two try and find some answers as to the woman’s identity. Meanwhile, a Hollywood director (Justin Theroux) is without his lead actress and being pressured by mobsters to select a particular one.

But plot is a side dish in this movie. As hard as it is to do, the way it’s best enjoyed (and I wish I’d known this pre-hindsight) is to take in the visuals and emotions and tame that instinctive plot detective inside all of us. The beauty of Lynch’s work is best understood by what the events and images of the film suggest. Don’t view them as tangible proof of factual happenings in the film, but as manifestations.

Put on those lenses and Lynch’s work is easier to appreciate. The slow movement through the sets, the symbolism, the bizarre but intriguing transitions and the way the film’s score works flawlessly to direct your every thought and inclination — it’s all there if you can manage to let go of the plot when necessary.

It’s hard to analyze the film any deeper without exposing the cheat sheet — even if you’ll probably need to look at it anyway. Lynch has even listed a number of things to pay attention to to help understand his film — you can look those up on IMDb or anywhere before watching and it could help.

Does the fixation on surrealism hurt “Mulholland Dr,” not necessarily, but the best films don’t require hints or cheat sheets to love and in order to love “Mulholland Dr.,” you have to know what’s going on and that’s a lot for the vast majority of movie watchers to handle. Appreciation for Lynch’s skill is easy to develop, but it would be best if it were simultaneous with digesting the story.

3.5/5 Stars

“Mulholland Dr.” (2001)
Written and Directed by: David Lynch
Starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring, Justin Theroux


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