Under the Silver Lake

Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5

Under the Silver Lake
dir-scr David Robert Mitchell
prd Chris Bender, Michael De Luca, Adele Romanski, Jake Weiner
with Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Jimmi Simpson, Grace Van Patten, Callie Hernandez, Zosia Mamet, Wendy Vanden Heuvel, Riki Lindhome, Patrick Fischler, Luke Baines, Laura Leigh
release UK 22.Mar.19,
US 19.Apr.19
18/US 2h19

keough grace simpson

van patten and garfield
There's a lot of fun to be had watching this bonkers, reference-jammed genre mash-up, but it's a shame it never quite congeals into something coherent. It's like Lynch without the underscoring emotion or Hitchcock without the sharp plotting. But writer-director David Robert Mitchell cannibalises American pop culture with such gusto that fanboys will be mesmerised.
In the central-west (not east as mentioned) Los Angeles enclave of Silverlake, Sam (Garfield) is a slacker who does little buy play vintage videogames and leer at girls. His current obsession is hot neighbour Sarah (Keough) who, after a promising day hanging out together, vanishes without a trace. As Sam looks for her, he finds clues hidden in codes everywhere. It's a literal rabbit hole that seems to involve a doomsday cult, a dog serial killer and a folkloric supernatural killer owl. This leads him to a series of parties, plus several shadowy, powerful figures.
Mitchell indulges in a riot of lurid styles, augmented by Disasterpiece's pastiche ominous score and a flurry of plot set-ups that merrily twist movie cliches. Along the way, there are obvious nods (right next to his Rear Window poster, Sam uses binoculars to spy on neighbours), silly gags (he inadvertently glues his hand to a Spider-Man comic) and continual recreations of movie moments, playfully using iconic Hollywood locations. There are also numerous disruptive story threads that eliminate any narrative cohesion.

Garfield adeptly holds the film together with a strikingly likeable performance as the wastrel Sam. He may be a self-involved dork, but it's impossible not to root for him to get to the bottom of this enveloping mystery. On the other hand, the women are so thinly sketched that neither his lust nor his apparent romantic inclinations for Sarah ever make sense. And the actresses never get a chance to be much more than a target for the overattentive camera's louche gaze.

There are some intriguing themes gurgling under the surface, mainly in the film's somewhat simplistic jabs at LA's film industry subculture and the vacuous ambition to be famous simply for being beautiful. The script is basically saying that no one is actually famous for his or her own artistic achievements. And while this is provocative and perhaps more true that we'd like it to be, it neglects to add anything to Sam's own story. So the movie ends up being an overlong, quirky oddity. Geeks like Sam will love it.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 12.Feb.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall