Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles

avid Lynch's Hollywood is not like yours or mine, but there are some similarities between most people's visions of Movie Land and the vision presented in Lynch's latest film, Mulholland Drive. There's a starry-eyed girl from nowhere who finds herself confused in a strange land of oddball Los Angeleans. There's an eccentric up-and-coming director who wears lots of black (Steven Soderbergh, anyone?). There are even some odd lesbians (well, maybe that's only in Howard Stern's Hollywood).

Named for the famous road that runs along the base of the Santa Monica Mountains, Lynch's film opens with an attempted murder, foiled by a chance car accident. The intended victim, expertly played by Laura Herring, escapes the crash but finds that she now suffers from amnesia. She hides out in the apartment of Betty (a stellar Naomi Watts), a nave wannabe movie star. Betty decides to help her new amnesiac friend--help her find out her identity, help her figure out why she was carrying a purse of cash and help her engage in some really intense sex.

The film does a good job carrying out its suspenseful plot and offers some wry clues to its denouement, but when the girls take off their tops, one wonders if Lynch made the film just to show us some scintillating girl-on-girl play.

All kidding aside, Lynch does have a message underneath all of the film's shock for the sake of shock: Hollywood is hell. To Lynch, Hollywood is the grapevine: Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear. It's a nightmare that has been masked by wild fairy tales, where movie stars live perfect little lives. It's a place where grown men and women recklessly break laws and societal standards, just to be let off the hook by the courts and the adoring public--not to mention ass-kissing journalists. (By the way, David Lynch is the greatest director ever; he deserves 10 Oscars.)

Keeping with his vision, the film leaves us sorting through the events, pondering what is fact and what is fable. Lynch has blurred the lines of fantasy and reality before--look no further than his epic television series Twin Peaks. His captivating vision for that show had an entire nation wondering who killed Laura Palmer. Lynch also has a knack for trick endings and unnavigable plots. Mulholland Drive falls somewhere in between a crafty, psychological film noir and a psychotic, drafty film no-no.

The artistry and audacity are commendable, and given Mulholland Drive's winding road to the big screen (this all started as a rejected television pilot; it was extended and re-shot into a motion picture), it's impressive that Lynch was able to make this mystery work so well. Still, something is left to be desired--perhaps it's that ounce of straightforwardness that Lynch never gives his audiences. Or, maybe it just needed more lesbians.



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