Welcome   |   Welcome (Text-Only)   |   About Me   |   Coursework / Skills   |   Music   |   Movies —> Past Recommendations —> Mulholland Drive Movie Reviews   |   Aerospace / Military   |   Issue Papers   |   EsperQ Shopping   |   Links   |   Contact   |   Free Trade, Individual Liberty & China

Mulholland Drive Movie Reviews

Roger Ebert / Chicago-Sun Times   |   iFilm   |   Premiere   |   Rolling Stone   |   TV Guide

Roger Ebert / Chicago Sun-Times

**** (R)

October 12, 2001

Betty: Naomi Watts
Rita: Laura Elena Harring
Adam Kesher: Justin Theroux
Coco Lenoix: Ann Miller
Vincenzo Castiglioni: Dan Hedaya
Universal Pictures presents a film written and directed by David Lynch. Running time: 146 minutes. Rated R (for violence, language. nudity and sexuality).


David Lynch has been working toward "Mulholland Drive" all of his career, and now that he's arrived there I forgive him "Wild at Heart" and even "Lost Highway." At last his experiment doesn't shatter the test tubes. The movie is a surrealist dreamscape in the form of a Hollywood film noir, and the less sense it makes, the more we can't stop watching it.

It tells the story of . . . well, there's no way to finish that sentence. There are two characters named Betty and Rita who the movie follows through mysterious plot loops, but by the end of the film we aren't even sure they're different characters, and Rita (an amnesiac who lifted the name from a "Gilda" poster) wonders if she's really Diane Selwyn, a name from a waitress' name tag.

Betty (Naomi Watts) is a perky blond, Sandra Dee crossed with a Hitchcock heroine, who has arrived in town to stay in her absent Aunt Ruth's apartment and audition for the movies. Rita (Laura Elena Harring) is a voluptuous brunet who is about to be murdered when her limousine is front-ended by drag racers. She crawls out of the wreckage on Mulholland Drive, stumbles down the hill, and is taking a shower in the aunt's apartment when Betty arrives.

Rita doesn't remember anything, even her name. Betty decides to help her. As they try to piece her life back together, the movie introduces other characters. A movie director (Justin Theroux) is told to cast an actress in his movie or be murdered; a dwarf in a wheelchair (Michael J. Anderson) gives instructions by cell phone; two detectives turn up, speak standard TV cop show dialogue, and disappear; a landlady (Ann Miller--yes, Ann Miller) wonders who the other girl is in Aunt Ruth's apartment; Betty auditions; the two girls climb in through a bedroom window, Nancy Drew style; a rotting corpse materializes, and Betty and Rita have two lesbian love scenes so sexy you'd swear this was a 1970s movie, made when movie audiences liked sex. One of the scenes also contains the funniest example of pure logic in the history of sex scenes.

Having told you all of that, I've basically explained nothing. The movie is hypnotic; we're drawn along as if one thing leads to another--but nothing leads anywhere, and that's even before the characters start to fracture and recombine like flesh caught in a kaleidoscope. "Mulholland Drive" isn't like "Memento," where if you watch it closely enough, you can hope to explain the mystery. There is no explanation. There may not even be a mystery.

There have been countless dream sequences in the movies, almost all of them conceived with Freudian literalism to show the characters having nightmares about the plot. "Mulholland Drive" is all dream. There is nothing that is intended to be a waking moment. Like real dreams, it does not explain, does not complete its sequences, lingers over what it finds fascinating, dismisses unpromising plotlines. If you want an explanation for the last half hour of the film, think of it as the dreamer rising slowly to consciousness, as threads from the dream fight for space with recent memories from real life, and with fragments of other dreams--old ones and those still in development.

This works because Lynch is absolutely uncompromising. He takes what was frustrating in some of his earlier films, and instead of backing away from it, he charges right through. "Mulholland Drive" is said to have been assembled from scenes that he shot for a 1999 ABC television pilot, but no network would air (or understand) this material, and Lynch knew it. He takes his financing where he can find it and directs as fancy dictates. This movie doesn't feel incomplete because it could never be complete--closure is not a goal.

Laura Elena Harring and Naomi Watts take the risk of embodying Hollywood archetypes, and get away with it because they are archetypes. Not many actresses would be bold enough to name themselves after Rita Hayworth, but Harring does, because she can. Slinky and voluptuous in clinging gowns, all she has to do is stand there and she's the first good argument in 55 years for a "Gilda" remake. Naomi Watts is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, a plucky girl detective. Like a dream, the movie shifts easily between tones; there's an audition where a girl singer performs "Sixteen Reasons" and "I Told Every Little Star," and the movie isn't satirizing "American Bandstand," it's channeling it.

This is a movie to surrender yourself to. If you require logic, see something else. "Mulholland Drive" works directly on the emotions, like music. Individual scenes play well by themselves, as they do in dreams, but they don't connect in a way that makes sense--again, like dreams. The way you know the movie is over is that it ends. And then you tell a friend, "I saw the weirdest movie last night." Just like you tell them you had the weirdest dream.




by Dave White

The Players: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, Ann Miller, Dan Hedaya, Robert Forster

The Play: Wide-eyed Betty (Watts) comes to L.A. to become a famous actress. Rita (Harring), this movie's raven-haired, red-lipped recurring Lynch moll (remember Sherilyn Fenn?), has lost her identity. Not that her identity matters that much, because two-thirds of the way in, all the actors change roles anyway. What's it about? After one viewing, I'll say euphoria, fear and that desperate longing for beauty and love that—darn the luck—always winds up as part of your nightmare. Still confused? Too bad. Just dig the delirium.

Coolest Scene: Betty's arrival in Los Angeles is blasted with so much bright light it's as though it's shooting out of her body. She's Dorothy seeing Oz for the first time.

Saddest Scene: After Betty and Rita change into Diane and Camilla, they ascend up a secret path in the Hollywood Hills. At first you think they're about to transcend their bodies and leave Earth, as lights twinkle above their heads; then you realize their destination is an awful, humiliating Hollywood party.

Cineast Factor: Devoted Lynchophiles will have fun spotting which of his own movies he's borrowing from throughout this one's 150 minutes.

When to Go Get a Drink/Hit the Restroom/Answer that Page: Anytime except Betty's big audition scene or when the Club Silencio woman (discussion: is it a dream sequence?) sings Roy Orbison's "Crying" in Spanish.

Date Movie? Not in the traditional sense, but there's absolutely enough sensuality, both literal and symbolic, to support the argument.

And Speaking of Sex: When Watts and Harring suddenly become lovers (in that late-night, cable, breast-implant way), Watts says, "Have you ever done this before?" Memory-impaired Harring emphatically replies, "I don't know!" Got a big laugh in the press screening.

The Hair Oscar Goes to: Beating out Session 9 's Brendan Sexton III for best film mullet of the year is King of All Mullets, Mr. Billy Ray Cyrus. Yes, he's in this movie, along with other groovy cameos from Lee Grant and Chad Everett.


Premiere Magazine

by Glenn Kenny

Release Date: October 12 (Universal Focus)

This is the girl.” Like “Now it’s dark” in Blue Velvet or “Fire walk with me” in the film version of Twin Peaks, “This is the girl” forms a sort of mantra in Mulholland Drive, writer-director David Lynch’s latest film. Uttered first by a dyspeptic mobster who’s very particular about his espresso, later by a menacingly polite cowboy who looks as if he just stepped out of an establishing shot from a Republic Pictures B western, and finally by an obdurate hotshot film director who’s eventually persuaded that only by saying those words can he get back the life that has been abruptly taken from him, it’s an initially neutral-sounding phrase that gains more currency every time it comes up. What it really “means”—what this whole, wholly astonishing film really “means”—will no doubt be a source of unending, fascinated speculation among Lynch cultists, as well as a provocation of genuine, foam-at-the-mouth frustration among those who got suckered into buying their tickets after hearing that the film contains a couple of really hot lesbian love scenes.

Not that it doesn’t, mind you—and it’s also worth noting that those scenes are rarities in the Lynch oeuvre, in that they don’t represent the act of physical love with complete revulsion. Indeed, the affair between amnesiac vamp Rita (Laura Elena Harring)—who, not remembering who she is, has cribbed her name from a poster of the movie Gilda—and perky Hollywood newbie Betty (Naomi Watts) is possibly the healthiest, most positive amorous relationship ever depicted in a Lynch movie—that is, for the duration of its healthy stage, which lasts about two minutes. The movie, which began as a pilot for a proposed television series and was reworked by Lynch into a stand-alone film after French producers stepped in with financing for new scenes, is a typically Lynchian sprawl (well over two hours), packed with bizarre characters, twisting plot lines, and unforgettable set pieces, with Rita and Betty’s story serving as its linchpin, so to speak. Although set in present-day L.A., the movie has the same unstuck-in-time feel that gave the great Blue Velvet much of its uncanny atmosphere.

More than anything else, Mulholland Drive is an incredible cinematic experience. You laugh, you wince, you fall in love, you hold your breath, you cringe, you mutter “Oh my God.” The movie is a nonstop catalog of classic Lynchian moments, from extreme discomfort (composer Angelo Badalamenti, a longtime Lynch collaborator, is ineffable as the espresso-rejecting mobster) to nostalgic reverie (a candy-colored doll with a beehive hairdo lip-synchs Connie Stevens’s “Sixteen Reasons” in a delightfully improbable movie-audition scene) to utter desolation (abandoned by a lover, a distraught woman seeks solace in masturbation; in a point-of-view shot, we see the brickwork above her fireplace snap in and out of focus) to sheer terror (embodied, finally, by two extremely creepy senior citizens). The only problem—and I need to lay my cards on the table and say that it wasn’t much of a problem for me, although for others it might be a big one—is exactly what the hell happens in this movie.

It’s pretty clear where Drive takes off from its TV pilot version; the lesbian scenes are a tip-off, plus the use of space within the frame opens up considerably. But Lynch did not use the big screen to tie up the loose ends of his various plot lines in a neat, or you might even say coherent, way. While the film’s emotional conclusion is quite definitive and remarkably devastating, the fact is that this is a mystery film where a lot of the riddles remain unanswered. It occurred to me, shortly after trying to shake off the emotional power of the film (it’s the kind of movie that makes the real world seem even weirder than usual when you step out of the theater), that Mulholland Drive is, in an oblique way, really a remake of Lynch’s first film, Eraserhead, and that left to his own devices, Lynch will, in some form or another, just make the same film over and over again. Roberto Rossellini once remarked of Chaplin’s A King in New York, “It is the film of a free man.” Mulholland Drive is the film of a slave—a slave to his own, undying obsessions. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.


Mulholland Drive

Rolling Stone

Drama | Rated R | 146 Minutes | 2001

"A moronic and incoherent piece of garbage." -The
New York Observer

". . . Makes a severe and unwelcome turn down a lost highway." -Variety

"Exactly what the hell happens in this movie?" -Premiere

Silencio. That's the last word uttered in the mind teaser - some would say mind fuck - that is David Lynch'sMulholland Drive , but nobody who sees it is going to shut up about it. Even the critics who don't throw stones feel the need to pull out fancy words like doppelg"nger and inchoate and oneiric to elucidate the meaning of Lynch's surreal dreamscape. Come on, that's almost as bad as the Web fan-boys who only salivate when co-stars Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring strip down and rub titties.

Before reducing Mulholland Drive to hot lesbo action or a Freudian exercise, let the movie pull you in. Surrender to it. Lynch's wild ride through the unconscious is grounded in emotion - perhaps a result of 1999's atypically benign The Straight Story - and minus the cold posturing that undercut 1997's Lost Highway.

Following his film Blue Velvet in 1986 and the groundbreaking Twin Peaks TV series in 1990, Mulholland Drive makes movies feel alive again. This sinful pleasure is a fresh triumph for Lynch, and one of the best films of a sorry-ass year. For visionary daring, swooning eroticism and colors that pop like a whore's lip gloss, there's nothing like this baby anywhere.

That's the problem. The film was first intended as a TV series, but frightened execs at ABC dropped Lynch's 1999 pilot, with Fox and the usually adventurous HBO following suit. It took an additional $7 million in financing (France's StudioCanal ponied up) for Lynch to reconceive the $8 million pilot as a feature. Remnants of the pilot remain, including Robert Forster doing a quick vanishing act as a detective. No matter. Mulholland Drive is all of a dark, dazzling piece, and lapses in clarity seem a small price to pay for breathtaking images like these.

After the credits roll over a brassy jitterbug contest, Mulholland Drive opens in a fever dream, with a woman twisting and turning in bed. Then it's dark - Lynch dark, an inky black accentuated by Angelo Badalamenti's seductively unsettling score (no sound design this year is more vital to a film's success). It's night in Los Angeles. A limo slithers along Mulholland Drive, but just as the driver stops to shoot the gorgeous brunette (Harring) in the back seat, the limo is rammed by a carload of hard-partying teens. The only survivor is the brunette, who staggers in heels down a hill, taking refuge in a Hollywood bungalow just vacated by a woman on her way out of town.

Cut to the L.A. airport. Bright sunshine. Perky blonde Betty Elms (Watts) has just jetted in from Deep River, Ontario, to make it as an actress. An elderly couple she met on the plane wish her well. Sitcom stuff? Hardly. Those seniors give off a malevolent vibe, especially when they laugh. Lynch includes a shot of the pair, grinning at the camera, that creeped me out big-time.

A feeling of dread infects everything except Betty, who keeps smiling even when she settles into her aunt's bungalow and finds the brunette in the shower. Yes, that bungalow. Instead of reporting the naked stranger to the apartment manager (veteran Ann Miller in a frisky cameo), Betty offers to help. The brunette calls herself Rita, after Rita Hayworth (she spots a poster of the 1940s star in Gilda hanging on the wall), but the limo accident has erased her memory of everything, notably where she got the cash stuffed in her purse.

When the name Diane Selwyn triggers a response in Rita, the girls play detective (Lynch's Angels?) and turn up no end of surprises, including a mysterious blue box and key, a dwarfish tycoon (Michael J. Anderson) with ties to Hollywood, a mobster (composer Badalamenti doubling as an actor) who doesn't suffer bad espresso gladly, a bungling hit man (Mark Pellegrino), a threatening cowboy (Layfayette Montgomery), a crazed psychic (Lee Grant) and - oh, yes - a rotting corpse.

That's enough setups for a full TV season, and I haven't mentioned Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux), a hotshot director who passes up Betty for the lead in his movie because the mob has ordered him to audition a mystery woman named Camilla Rhodes and shout out, "This is the girl!" Lynch likes sticking it to Hollywood, sometimes too much. There are times when you wonder if Lynch knows where he's going, such as the scene in which Adam catches his wife in bed with the gardener (Billy Ray Cyrus, of all people) and retaliates by smearing her jewelry with pink paint. But each vignette adds to the unease that envelops Betty and Rita. One, about a man who dreams of something terrible lurking behind the diner where the girls eat, has a shuddering impact.

The relatively unknown Watts and Harring are sensational in ways that go beyond the call of babes-in-distress duty. Harring, of the TV soap Sunset Beach, makes Rita a ravishing blank slate on which Betty draws her fantasies. And Watts, born in England and raised in Australia, is a revelation. Her performance, nailing every subversive impulse under Betty's sunny exterior, ranks with the year's finest. Watch her in the audition scene - as perversely brilliant as anything Lynch has ever directed - when Betty reads lines with Jimmy Katz, an older actor smarmed to perfection by Chad Everett. Earlier, with Rita, Betty had rehearsed the role of a good girl who is being sexually abused by her father's business partner. But with Jimmy, Betty assertively takes charge, breathing in his ear, biting his lip, reading her dialogue - "Get out of here before I kill you" - like a carnal invitation.

As Watts digs into the juiciest role for a young actress in ages, Lynch starts unveiling the method behind his madness. When Betty invites Rita to share her bed, their give-and-take is richly comic: "Have you done this before?" asks Betty. "I don't know," says the amnesiac. Later, Rita whisks Betty off to a decaying nightclub; no one does glamorous old-Hollywood rot like Lynch. Zombified musicians perform without benefit of orchestra. "No hay banda," says the sleazy MC (Geno Silva). He intros a singer (Rebekah Del Rio) who breaks into a Spanish version of Roy Orbison's "Crying" that brings tears to Betty and Rita (Rita is wearing a blond wig now, shades of Hitchcock's Vertigo). To add to the symbolism overload, the singer collapses midsong, though her voice goes on, and a blue-haired la dy at the club whispers, "Silencio." Whew! You can do one of two things: Scratch your head and curse Lynch as a freak or realize that what's transpired so far is the dream being experienced by the woman from the first scene, a woman who might be Betty.

Might is the operative word. In the film's final third, as identities shift and the world is thrown out of balance, we are encouraged to link the pieces of the puzzle cunningly devised by Lynch, cinematographer Peter Deming, production designer Jack Fisk and editor Mary Sweeney. The challenge is exhilarating. You can discover a lot about yourself by getting lost in Mulholland Drive. It grips you like a dream that won't let go.

(RS 881-
Nov. 8, 2001)



TV Guide


The dark side of the screen


In a strange reversal of fortune that totally befits this sexy nocturne's vision of Hollywood as a shadowy pit 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 naďve 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 herself. 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.  — Ken Fox