Most people say that you have to watch Mulholland Drive a few times to really understand it. I call BS! David Lynch’s classic film is notorious for being complicated, and while the central message is very ambiguous, the basic plot really isn’t all that confusing. Yet it’s far from a straight story, as it’s set in a dream-like version of LA.
Naomi Watts plays Betty, a young wannabe movie star, desperate to break into Hollywood. Laura Harring is a mysterious woman who loses her memory and turns up at Betty’s apartment after an accident. The woman calls herself “Rita”, just to make things easier, but she can’t remember anything about her real identity. The story revolves around Betty’s attempt to help Rita piece her life back together, while other unrelated events unfold and eventually interlock.
Of course, I’m not going to explain every little detail, especially anything from the second half of the film, which completely disregards the traditional narrative style. That’s the funny thing about Mulholland Drive – is that you think it’s going to be a linear story, but at a point, it literally folds in on itself and destroys any reservations you might have had. Lynch dances between the absurd, the daring and the haunting. And it really makes for a downright brilliant film.
So far in this review, it feels like I’ve barely explained anything. Mulholland Drive really is unique, because it doesn’t lead anywhere conclusive. It’s not like Inception where there’s a logical explanation for its purpose. You could argue Mulholland Drive is really about dealing with grief, or that it’s an angry response to Hollywood and the “submissive” roles women often play.
Truth is, there is no explanation. I don’t think it’s worth trying to decode the film’s meaning because that’s not the point of it. Mulholland Drive is an ‘art’ film in every sense of the word. It’s a form of escapism, a fantasy that’s supposed to be loved, not constantly dissected. I can’t explain the last hour of the film. Perhaps there’s not a single waking moment, amidst the dreamy and very weird sequences.
Having said all that, I’ll still say Mulholland Drive’s plot isn’t hard to follow if you pay full attention. What’s unfolding onscreen isn’t the mind-boggling part, it’s what it all means that gives you a headache. So, if you require logic and a coherent story, this isn’t the film for you, my friend. It plays on every single emotion, drawing you into a dark journey, that deviates when you least expect it.
This is only a small taste of Mulholland Drive, a delirious world with no clear answers. Brilliant performances by Watts and Harring make it a near-perfect film. The only problem I have with it is that it’s far too inaccessible for its own good. I can’t imagine many of my friends or family would enjoy it, just because it’s so “out there”. But that’s David Lynch for you!
Directed and written by: David Lynch
Stars: Naomi Watts, Jeanne Bates, Laura Herring, Robert Forster, Brent Briscoe
Distributor: Pathe Distribution (UK), Universal Pictures (US)
Run Time: 147 min.
Let me know your thoughts on Mulholland Drive. Please leave a comment!
*Update* – There are spoilers in the comments.