Movies I Need To See Before I Die: David Lynch’s MULHOLLAND DR. (2001)


(This is a column where I review movies that I have never seen, but SHOULD have.  Being a film Geek, I have seen a ton of films.  But life is also very short, and for one reason or another, there are quite a few flicks that I have never got to.  Sure, it probably doesn’t matter if I ever see a movie like PARENTAL GUIDANCE, but a movie like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA…. well, I should have seen that already.  I’m a film geek for God’s sake!  I have now decided that I should get on that before I get too old.  I have compiled a list of films that I WANT or NEED to watch, and am going to start watching them when I have spare time.  So I will randomly be posting reviews of movies that I have always wanted or needed to see.  Enjoy!)

I’ve always considered myself a David Lynch fan.  I suppose my introduction to him was WILD AT HEART, which I still consider his best film.  Though that’s probably not fair since I still haven’t seen BLUE VELVET (don’t worry, I’m sure that will turn up in this column in the near future).  I also haven’t seen TWIN PEAKS (I’m just not keen on TV shows).  But I loved LOST HIGHWAY, THE ELEPHANT MAN and especially ERASERHEAD.  Heck, I even enjoyed his wacky Sci-Fi interpretation of DUNE.  Well, how come I haven’t seen MULHOLLAND DR.?  Well, there’s a pretty good reason.  Even though Lynch got Oscar nominated for best director, I was always very skeptical of this movie.  Mainly because of how it was made.  It was originally supposed to be a TV pilot, then when it didn’t get picked up, Lynch went back over a year later and filmed an additional 40 minutes or so and called it a feature film.  One: I don’t usually don’t like TV productions because of the technical quality.  And two: this originally wasn’t intended as a feature film.  I was worried that it would seem slapped together.  The production history of MULHOLLAND DR. has always kind of turned me off from it.  But, as a film geek, I felt like that I did have to see it.  So…. here we go……

It’s a Lynch film so I knew it wasn’t going to make sense.  That’s fine.  LOST HIGHWAY didn’t make any sense either and I think of it as somewhat of a modern masterpiece.  So I was prepared.  Naomi Watts plays an aspiring actress who moves to Hollywood and is staying at her Aunts.  But there’s another woman there too played by Laura Harring, who’s been in a car crash and can’t remember anything.  Watts tries to help her remember.  Meanwhile a film director played by Justin Theroux is being forced to cast a woman he doesn’t want in his movie because of some midget who I assume is some kind of underworld boss.  There’s also a hitman  who is killing some people too.  Oh yeah, and a guy is telling some other guy at a restaurant that he keeps having a recurring nightmare… and then he dies…. I think.

The second half of the movie switches gears (most likely because this is where the new footage starts and Lynch appears to start the story from scratch, cause not much that came before seems to matter).  Watts and Harring are now new characters that were briefly mentioned in the first half, and are lesbian lovers.  Watts goes insanely jealous when Theroux and Harring start dating.  And that’s all I’m going to say.  Perhaps I’ve said too much.  Or not enough.  I’m not sure.

Now, I know there’s a method to Lynch’s madness.  I KNOW it!  Even though I didn’t fully understand LOST HIGHWAY, I was fully engaged throughout.  That’s definitely not the case here.  And it’s not because the film makes little sense.  It’s because it’s not a very well made movie.  It starts off exciting enough with a car crash that was shockingly abrupt.  Then we’re introduced to all these characters, but I didn’t find any of them very interesting.  And the ones that were interesting weren’t in the movie enough.  Harring’s character is so boring that I could care less what happened to her in the past.  Watts is an intriguing (if extremely clichéd) character, but when the gears shift in the second half, there’s not enough info given for the audience to care about her.  Or anyone for that matter.  And that’s the problem.  Characters are introduced and are featured in the movie prominently (like Theroux and the hitman), but then they’re quickly forgotten about.  I’m guessing if this was going to be a continuing series, all of these people would have been expanded upon, but how they are presented here, they all seem pretty pointless.

The acting is also pretty bad for a Lynch film.  The only exception being Naomi Watts.  For the first half, she’s not very good, overacting her character’s naive quality.  But then the best scene of the movie happens.  She auditions for a movie role, and practically seduces the much older actor that she’s reading with.  She blew the producers away, and myself.  She was awesome in that scene.  And then she’s really good in the last 40 minutes when she’s all crazy jealous.  But since I wasn’t into her character, all that hard work hardly seemed worth it.  I can’t even find one nice thing to say about Laura Harring.  She’s God awful in this!  Her performance wouldn’t even be good enough for the worst soap opera that never aired.  Every time she spoke she made me cringe.  Justin Theroux seems to be completely clueless as to how to play his part (probably because he had no idea what was going on either).  There are also a few character actors that are completely wasted, including the great Robert Forster and the awesome Dan Hedaya.  They are only featured for a minute or so and I kept waiting for them to reappear, but they didn’t.  Whatever.

Another problem with the movie is the look of the film.  For the first two-thirds, it LOOKS like a Television pilot.  It doesn’t look like a film.  It looks cheap and shoddy.  And then in the last portion, the production suddenly looks like it was shot on film.  It looks really good, but it doesn’t match the first half at all.  This makes the last half seem even more tacked on.  I’m not sure if Lynch struggled to make sense of this production or not, but that’s not important.  What IS important is that it DOES look like he was struggling trying to make sense of this movie.  It’s a big mess.  But not in a controlled sense like Lynch’s other films.  And that’s too bad, cause every once in a while I saw potential within the junk.  There’s some interesting shots here and there, but for the most part it looks like “amateur hour”.  It doesn’t feel like Lynch made the movie, but someone who idolizes him and is TRYING to make a Lynch movie.  Also, Angelo Badlamenti’s score sounded so cheap, that it could’ve been from a late 80’s made-for-cable clunker.

I know this film has its admirers, and I’m sure they can argue with me all day and try to convince me why this film is brilliant, but I just don’t see it.  Sorry.  Even if it did make sense (remember, that wasn’t my problem) it still couldn’t be good because of the lackluster direction and the crappy acting.  I’m shocked that the Academy nominated Lynch for this.  Now THAT’S weird!  I really don’t want to hate on Lynch since I’ve loved all the films that I’ve seen from him, but I have to call out a film when one is bad.  And this one is bad, despite some good work from Watts.  It appears that my premonitions about this movie were right.  It really is just a slapped together production.  ★½ (out of ★★★★)

– Rated R for violence, language and some strong sexuality.

– Running time: 2hrs 26min.


Categories: Austin Kennedy, Movies I Need To See Before I Die, Reviews

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5 replies

  1. You sir, don’t know how to appreciate surrealistic neo-noir movies. This is one of the best works in the history of cinema and it takes a lot of insight(which you clearly don’t have) to really feel the cinematic brilliance this movie brings to the table.

    • I sure do know how to appreciate them. But this one wasn’t good to me. Not because of how surrealistic it was, but how poorly made, technically it was. and the poor acting from several actors. 🙂

  2. Some people like to watch a movie and switch off. Others like to piece together elaborate story lines like puzzles.
    Mulholland drive isn’t for everyone, some people love it, others watch Grown Ups 2.

    • For the record, I didn’t like either. I’d definitely watch a movie like MULHOLLAND DR. over GROWN UPS 2. As I state in my review, I DO like movies like MULHOLLAND DR., I just thought that this one didn’t quite work, and felt like it tried too hard. 🙂

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