David Lynch isn’t exactly exactly known for his linear blockbusters. TV series Twin Peaks confused countless viewers whilst its lack of conclusion will prepare anyone preparing to watch Mulholland Drive. After a traumatic car crash, Rita (Laura Harring) finds she has no memory of who she is. Befriending Betty (Naomi Watts), the two set on a journey to discover the mysteries of Rita’s life… and just why her bag is crammed with money and a mysterious blue key.
Opening with a psychedelic dancing montage the film slowly descends into insanity. Whilst the friendship struck between the two leads is unlikely, it does, at first, have some grounding. After finding Rita naked in her Aunt’s shower, Betty takes it upon herself to look after the stranger, often putting her career ambitions on hold for the imposter. The interweaving segments add little, at first, to their bond, instead offering confusing glimpses of a Lynchian world of dreams and plain strangeness.
As the sexual tension mounts between Rita and Betty (resulting in a lesbian bed scene) Lynch slowly moves towards the crux of the film. The pair attend the late night theatrical show ‘Silencio’ where reality is questioned shortly before the film abandons reality altogether, and we’re met with an alternate Betty, a Diane Selwyn – the woman the pair hunt and find dead earlier in the film, who shares Betty’s infatuation with Rita but lacks her charisma in Hollywood auditions. Watching as Rita enjoys the affections of director Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux), who, up until now, has been harassed by bad luck, Diane slowly loses her marbles and the film follows suit. Changing realities occupy the screen and viewers are assaulted with Lynch’s confusing non-linear script.
Lynch makes heavy use of POV shots whilst the film’s soundtrack is subdued. The enjoyment one can garner from the film often comes from the film’s bit parts, one notable scene being a murder/suicide attempt going completely awry. The promise the film initially shows falls apart half way through, making way for a pretentiously cryptic mishmash of ideas. Many have lapped it up, but the confusion that infuses the film is crude. For all of its pretence one gets the impression of a film trying too hard – Mulholland Drive lacks the effortless of other brain teasers and instead shoves the explanation into the mix with the deftness of Michael Bay handling a schmultzy rom-com. The ideas it proposes regarding the layers of reality are interesting but are marred by its execution. Watts is on top form here but even her impressive performance does little to hold the film together whilst the eerie background characters add to the overwhelming sense of oddness that purveys the film.
We may be alone in our disappointment with Mulholland Drive, but making no sense does not constitute a classic film. David Lynch fans will have their thirst for strangeness quenched here but if confusing pretentious flicks aren’t your scene you’d do well to steer clear of this.