Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Movie Review: "Under the Silver Lake" (2019)

Director: David Robert Mitchell
Year: 2019
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 19 minutes

An out of work actor goes on a quest to solve the mystery of his neighbor's sudden disappearance.

Movie still for A24's latest film Under the Silver Lake where Andrew Garfield looks sneakily from behind a palm tree with his sunglasses on
"It's silly wasting your energy on something that doesn't matter." (Image Source)
Neo-noir thrillers are infrequent these days, so it's nice to see someone still attempting to make them, even if they aren't the best. "Under the Silver Lake" is written and directed by David Robert Mitchell and is the follow-up to his breakthrough horror hit "It Follows," which we loved. It tells the story of Sam (Andrew Garfield), an unemployed actor living in Los Angeles. After spending the evening chatting and watching movies with his neighbor Sarah (Riley Keough), the next morning, she is gone without a word. Sam takes it upon himself to investigate Sarah's disappearance, getting sucked down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories and hidden messages.
Movie still for David Robert Mitchell's 2019 film Under the Silver Lake where Riley Keough looks upward while wearing a big white hat and holding a white dog
"Don't you ever think that rich people might know something that you and I don't?" (Image Source)
We have been looking forward to "Under the Silver Lake" for a while now. It was pushed back several times by A24, and now, we see why. This movie is what you get when someone other than David Lynch tries to make a David Lynch film. While watching this oddball feature, we got the sense that David Robert Mitchell must be a big fan of "Mulholland Dr." and/or "Twin Peaks," because he clearly watched those pictures and turned around and did his best to replicate them. It is a neo-noir mystery that mirrors old school noir films like "Anatomy of a Murder" in its style and tone. The main difference is where "Anatomy of a Murder" is focused, "Under the Silver Lake" looks impeccable, but is all over the place. It feels like two and a half hours of ridiculous nonsense with characters that are meaningless and narrative threads that go nowhere. It is one of those movies where its goal is not to tell a story, but make something so weird that each filmgoer will assign a different meaning to whatever ridiculousness has been put on screen so they can pretend that they understand something that others don't. We've already seen dozens of articles and videos trying to dissect the symbolism in "Under the Silver Lake" and, like "Mulholland Dr.," any take is equally valid to the next because it simultaneously means nothing and everything. We don't think it is trying to say much more than what it blatantly offers up via exposition: that old, rich white men secretly run everything, and that all of pop culture is part of some master plot to control the masses, hidden in the backward noises of our favorite hit songs. And it feels like it sometimes doesn't it?! The only thing is, we didn't uncover this information through symbolism, shadows, or hidden communiques, it is told to the audience outright by an elderly piano player who apparently wrote all of the best, most rebellious tunes that shaped our childhood because "they" "told us" "to like them." The barking ladies, the rowboat ride across a lake, the cereal, the skunking...all amount to a hill of beans by movie's end.
Movie still for A24's film Under the Silver Lake where a bunch of women bark angrily in a bathroom at Andrew Garfield
"Hard to know what a person might do when they're in pain." (Image Source)
"Under the Silver Lake" is one of those random flicks that we know will become a cult hit with a dedicated group of fans who will praise it as a work of ~*genius art.~* General audiences, however, will likely find it to be a mess of pretention that is far more style than substance. Yes, there is a lot of excellent camerawork, some eclectic visuals, and a killer soundtrack, but that's not enough to wash away the unsatisfying feeling we had when this film was over.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 4/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.5/10
RT Rating: 57%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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