In a strange reversal of fortune that totally befits this sexy nocturne's vision of Hollywood as a shadow world of unknowable evil, David Lynch's ninth feature film began life as a TV pilot, then took a circuitous road to the big-screen. And that's exactly where it belongs: An intriguingly mysterious, self-reflexive ode to the dream factory, it's one of Lynch's most satisfying films. Bursting with the blend of nervous excitement and naïve confidence that is the exclusive property of starry-eyed movie ingenues, Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) bounces off a plane at LAX, ready to make it big in pictures; if this were 1940, she'd be heading straight for Schwab's drugstore. Instead, Betty checks into her vacationing Aunt Ruth's Hollywood garden apartment, but finds it already occupied by a mysterious, raven-haired amnesiac (Laura Elena Harring), the sole survivor of a triple-car pileup the night before. The amnesiac calls herself Rita, after the poster for Rita Hayworth's GILDA hanging in Aunt Ruth's bathroom, but has no solid clues as to her identity other than a purse full of cash, a strange blue key and a fleeting memory of where she was headed at the time of the crash: Mulholland Drive. Sensing adventure, Betty channels her inner Nancy Drew ("It'll be just like the movies!") and, with Rita's help, sets out to solve this little mystery. Meanwhile, young director Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) is attempting to recast the female lead in his latest film, despite the fact that the decision has already been made for him by the nefarious Castigliane brothers (played with hilarious sangfroid by Dan Hedaya and Lynch's longtime composer, Angelo Badalementi), Hollywood money men with a ties to far more malignant forces. The two main story lines eventually converge, but just as everything starts pulling together, it all blows apart; the film's final half hour is a spine-tingling, completely mystifying sequence of events that imply as many interpretations of what the film has been about as there are plot cul de sacs and narrative dead ends. For a movie that seems to be all about casting and recasting, identities lost and found, role-playing and replaying both "live" and on tape this celluloid Mobius strip makes a strange sort of sense. But in once again reasserting his position as the master of unease all those slow, sensual dissolves and fades-to-black, creeping point-of-view shots that reveal nothing Lynch ultimately shuts the puzzle box tight and keeps all its secrets to himself.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: R
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- Review: In a strange reversal of fortune that totally befits this sexy nocturne's vision of Hollywood as a shadow world of unknowable evil, David Lynch's ninth feature film began life as a TV pilot, then took a circuitous road to the big-screen. And that's exactly… (more)