Breaking down all aspects of a film, from the plot to set pieces, is a common aspect of critiquing. What motivates a character to do what do what she does that drives the main conflict? What kind of message are the filmmakers trying to convey? What is the lesson learned in the end? David Lynch’s MULHOLLAND DRIVE is a film designed not to be broken down, but to be experienced.
Naomi Watts stars as Betty, an aspiring actress from Canada who stays at her aunt’s place in Los Angeles in hopes of becoming a respected star. Upon arrival, she discovers a naked woman (Laura Harring) in her aunt’s shower who doesn’t remember anything except that she made her way there from a bizarre car crash. It’s clear early on that nothing about this crash feels like an accident as mysterious characters appear throughout, on the search for this woman for unknown reasons. This mystery excites the naïve Betty and she decides to involve herself in helping this woman find out who she is and what she is running from.
Parallel to Betty’s story is filmmaker Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux), a young hot shot director who is put in a potentially dangerous situation when it comes to casting the leading lady in his latest project. His personal life turns to shit, forcing him to a corner where he must succumb to pressures from the higher ups if he wants to make this film work or even save his life.
MULHOLLAND DRIVE feels just like the blue box Betty finds in the film: an enigma that doesn’t fully make sense when you think about it too much, but that’s ok. It somehow remains faithful to its core even if the key that fits changes shapes along with our actors who shift characters in the last hour. There’s the possibility of multiple interpretations, but literal meanings will find devices that might contradict the theory and doesn’t connect to each story.
If someone were to verbally ask me what MULHOLLAND DRIVE is about, then I would tell them it’s about how the American dream can kill you. I would also tell them how love can literally drive you crazy. Depending on the day, I might tell them it’s about how our choices are not our own and what comes with price of our so called American freedom. It’s about how all these things can change a person who just can’t bear the burden of humanity under one personality. Human emotions don’t make sense to those who constantly feel the deepest ends of the spectrum, but MULHOLLAND DRIVE manages to capture it on film.
Watts really defines a real actor; giving it her all in probably one of the schizophrenic roles an actor could be given. She begins as the hopeful young girl, wishing for all the stars and ends as a broken remnant of a human being.
MULHOLLAND DRIVE received a bare bones DVD release upon initial release and when I heard The Criterion Collection was releasing a blu-ray with supplements, I was ecstatic. While there’s no commentary (and does it really need it?), there’s plenty of insightful interviews and behind the scenes footage to please hungry fans. The most interesting feature here is the interviews with the cast and crew. The actors get pretty candid on how they landed the roles and the disappointment that came with learning ABC was most likely going to drop the project (it started off as a two hour pilot), and the excitement that came with it being green lit as a feature film. Watts shares the discomfort of having an upset stomach and just all around anger of filming her infamous masturbation scene.
The impatience of waiting on a blu-ray release has finally come to an end and the wait was worth it. With a gorgeous transfer, beautifully designed packaging (including a booklet) makes MULHOLLAND DRIVE a must have for fans and newcomers alike. Lynch fans will salivate over his interviews and look back at the experiences of getting this project together and his love for the actors. I don’t like utilizing this phrase as I feel it sounds pretentious, but MULHOLLAND DRIVE really is one of my all time favorite movies.