Casting alone saves TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME, a "prequel" to David Lynch's cult TV series that finds the celebrated filmmaker at an uncharacteristically low ebb.
The ghost who haunted the series, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), holds the spotlight here as a troubled teen leading a double life in the eponymous town. By day she's a top student hanging out with her innocent best friend Donna Hayward (Moira Kelly) and nice-guy boyfriend James Hurley (James
Marshall). By night, she's an overheated coke fiend carrying on a sleazy liaison with dope dealer Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook). After dark, she trades in her pleated skirts and bobby sox for high heels and garter belts, presumably paying for her habit by being an attraction at an underground sex
club run by the loathsome Jacques Renault (Walter Olkewicz), where she gets pawed over by drunken loggers.
The source of Laura's self-destructiveness is traced to long-term sexual abuse by her father, Leland (Ray Wise), who, while possessed by evil spirit Bob (Frank Silva), has regularly raped her since she was twelve. When Laura realizes that she is leading Donna down a similar path of doom, she has
an attack of conscience leading her to face up to the truth about herself and her father. Leland, meanwhile, stumbles upon Laura's secret life when his mistress inadvertently sets him up on a "date" with Laura during an out-of-town business trip.
Driven mad by jealousy, he follows Laura and friend Ronette Pulaski (Phoebe Augustine) to a sex party with Renault and Leo Johnson (Eric DaRe) in an abandoned railroad car. It is there that he knocks Leo unconscious and scares off Renault before beating Ronette into a coma and murdering his
daughter, dumping her body into the river, where it surfaces for the first scene of the series.
It's getting to be an old story, but TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME apparently underwent some drastic trimming before reaching American screens, somehow losing 20 minutes of its original running time after it was nearly booed off screens during its world premiere at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.
What's left isn't that bad, but it's far from Lynch's best work.
The feverish conviction that made Lynch's earlier films as controversial as they were gripping has given way to a cheap-looking, cheesy campiness here. Besides rehashing the series--also provided are back stories on characters such as town poet Harold Smith (Lenny Van Dohlen), filling in how he
wound up with Laura's diary, and the source of Bobby's enmity with Leo (he killed one of Leo's drug couriers)--TWIN PEAKS also rehashes Lynch's obsession with the dark underbelly of smalltown life that he had already treated more compellingly in BLUE VELVET.
Here, he doesn't have much to add, except possible consumer deception. Despite prominent listings among the cast, such series regulars as Peggy Lipton, Madchen Amick, Miguel Ferrer and Kyle MacLachlan have little more than one-or-two-scene cameo roles, as do guest stars such as David Bowie and
Kiefer Sutherland. Further down the cast list, we must have blinked and missed appearances by other listed series stars like Jack Nance, Wendy Robie, Joan Chen and Michael Horse--or maybe they were among the casualties in the cutting room.
What redeems TWIN PEAKS, if anything, is Lee's performance, a fearsomely commanding star turn following token appearances in the series (as Laura's look-alike cousin, also murdered by Leland) and in WILD AT HEART. While Lynch ladles on the random weirdness around the edges, it is Lee who keeps the
film centered, with a harrowing but poignantly sympathetic portrait of a woman's descent into horror and madness. (Violence, substance abuse, profanity, nudity, sexual situations.)
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