David Lynch’s new film Mulholland Drive is that odd dream that makes no sense when you wake up, but makes perfect sense while you’re dreaming. As hard as you try to understand it, you know you never will.

There are a thousand ways to interpret this film, but to think of it as a feature-length dream is the easiest. Filled with unexplained vignettes and characters, terrors and unknowns, this is not the conventional movie dream and that’s the genius of the film.

No longer simply a plot device, the dream motif defines the entire film, and rather than comforting the characters, this dream throws them into uncertainty.

The film begins with the attempted murder of an unknown woman (Laura Harring). The attempt is thwarted by a car crash and the woman becomes an amnesiac. Hiding from her would-be killer, she lies low in a bungalow temporarily occupied by Betty (Naomi Watts), a naive starlet.

Fascinated by the mystery, Betty agrees to help the woman, who takes the name Rita. As they follow the clues they are led into a fantastical version of Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles populated by eccentrics. But this pseudo-plot is only a catalyst for the strange journey that is the rest of the movie.

A second plot emerges as a young film director (Justin Theroux) is forced by a dwarf and his goons to cast an unknown actress in his new film. Angered by the strong-arm tactics, he refuses.

When he is fired from the project the director finds his world turning upside down. In one scene, he finds his wife in bed with the pool man, played by Billy Ray Cyrus. In a film filled with oddities, this one’s a highlight.

It’s only when a cowboy convinces him to cast the unknown actress that the director’s life returns roughly to normal and begins to intertwine with Betty and Rita’s lives.

Watts, as Betty, is an amazing talent. The range demanded for her role(s) tests her skills and she is up to the challenge. Her performance has the traits of a Hitchcockian heroine a la Grace Kelly in Rear Window and Kim Novak in Vertigo. In a fantastic audition scene, the starlet auditions for a part with such power that it is easy to see the darker side that emerges later on.

The more eccentric moviegoer may remember Watts as Jet Girl in the extremely fun, but under appreciated, Tank Girl. She’s off to a strong start and after her outing in Mulholland Drive audiences will look forward to seeing more of her.

Lynch has created another work of neo-noir on acid, as he did with the underrated Lost Highway. There are odd characters, unexplained scenes and plot points that don’t just shift the story into another direction, but into an entirely new dimension. You may not be able to describe a David Lynch film, but you know one when you see it.

Meat-and-potatoes moviegoers who need a paint-by-numbers plot should avoid Mulholland Drive like the plague. For the more adventurous it’s a twisted dream come true.

Staff Writer Stephen Allan can be contacted at [email protected]


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