Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive

“It’ll be just like in the movies: pretending to be somebody else.”

Every once in awhile, a movie comes along that makes you question everything you’ve seen. Fight Club and Donnie Darko have walked this path; but very few movies do it as masterfully as Mulholland Drive. Written and directed by surrealist filmmaker David Lynch (Eraserhead, Twin Peaks) and starring Naomi Watts and Laura Harring, this is a movie that takes the typical Hollywood ending and shoots it and leaves it in a gutter to die. Most movies will cleanly wrap everything up by the end of the film, but this one seems to introduce new questions right up until the unexpected ending. Truth be told, it’s best that you go into an initial viewing without knowing a lot about the movie, so I’m going to leave the conversation on this one pretty sparse and reveal absolutely no spoilers. The movie is brilliant, though, if you’re willing to put in the time to piece things together.

The movie opens with a beautiful woman riding in a limo when there is an assassination attempt on her, which is thwarted by an unexpected car accident which leaves her with amnesia. The woman, who calls herself Rita despite not remembering her real name, stumbles into a suburb of Los Angeles and seeks refuge in an abandoned apartment, which is soon inhabited by Betty, a young aspiring actress. The two form a quick connection and soon begin playing detective to find out who Rita really is and what happened to her. Crazy and unexplainable things begin happening, and it’s soon hard to tell fantasy from reality.

I’m sorry. I’m just so excited to be here. I mean I just came here from Deep River, Ontario, and now I’m in this dream place.

There are some very interesting and enticing things about Mulholland Drive, but it’s very much a surrealist film, and that’s the reason to see it. It’s pretty much guaranteed that you will not understand it the first time the credits roll. Symbols and metaphors buried beneath the main plot serve to merely enhance other movies, but they tell the entire story here. Immediately after finishing this film the first time, I knew there was more to it, and I started researching. There are actually a lot of great explanations out there, so I won’t spoil anything here, but I’d encourage you to do some quick searches and try to find your own meaning in this confusing movie.

Rita and Betty are frightened in Mulholland Drive
Imagine Twin Peaks in Hollywood with lesbians.

The truly amazing thing about this movie is that it seems like it makes sense, like it’s homing in on a very specific point, and like you’ll be able to figure everything out. But then, slowly, it hints that everything is not as it seems. About two-thirds of the way through the movie, there’s a very abrupt change that feels jolting. And then, just when you feel like you’re starting to piece things together, the movie ends. It leaves you with many questions and much to think about. If that leaves you frustrated, I promise, it is possible to make sense of all of the disjointed pieces of this puzzle—it will just take a lot of thought and possibly some research to get to the bottom of it. The feeling it conveys once you unravel its mysteries is deep and powerful, and all of the twists and rabbit holes make sense in the end.

Mulholland Drive is a brilliant and complex movie, in the same vein as Memento and Donnie Darko, and just as confusing. It is definitely not a mainstream movie, and some may be turned off entirely by the highly abstract and surreal nature of the film. Regardless, there’s a lot of meaning and intelligence there for those who want to look for it. If you’re a film enthusiast or student, this is a must-see. Just don’t plan on going to sleep right after you see it—its mysteries will probably have you thinking about it and looking for answers for hours afterward.

View my complete list of classic, essential, or just plain good movies!

Runtime: 2:27
Director: David Lynch
Year: 2001
Genres: drama, mystery, thriller
Rating: R

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