'Under the Silver Lake'
In 2014, David Robert Mitchell’s slow-build ‘It Follows’ played the Critics’ Week selection at the Cannes Film Festival and took the genre world by storm. There was of course big anticipation for his return to Cannes with ‘Under the Silver Lake’. With a cast that includes stalwart performers like Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough and Topher Grace, this noir-for-Millennials, complete with Lynchian surrealism and an undercurrent of conspiracy-theory menace, promised to be another film that plays with genre tropes in interesting ways.
Unfortunately, not all Hollywood dreams come true. Mitchell’s film exemplifies the worst tendencies of this kind of aimless indie nonsense. Rather than being whimsically weird, it’s a torpid, tedious mess, where a smattering of pseudo-philosophy and topless shots try with a sickly desperation to distract from the incoherence of the story.
Garfield does his damndest to keep the ship afloat, but even his charm can’t save it from sinking. At an unconscionable 139 minutes, the movie feels like a coke-fueled story told at some Hollywood gathering, one that’s only entertaining for the storyteller. There are no less than four definitive moments where the film could have ended, instead feeling like some madcap episodic television pilot that simply doesn’t know which direction will test well with audiences.
The film has an irritating smugness, a feeling that it’s trying to be smarter than you while coming across as just gormlessly indulgent. You can feel the good will the early moments engender slipping away after each misstep. The whole thing reeks of a filmmaker who has lost all perspective on how to talk to audiences. This disaster is in desperate need of a re-edit, ideally cutting out at least an hour of running time in order to extract its darkly comedic strengths and drop some of the pedantic silliness.
As it stands, this follow-up is a flop that feels very much like the work of an aimless auteur given enough opportunity to shine only to deliver something nearly unwatchable. We know it’s in Mitchell to craft something truly special, but we’ll have to wait for his next project to see if he can overcome an early nadir in what seemed to be an extremely promising career.