Cast: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Anne Miller, Justin Theroux
Director: David Lynch
David Lynch affirmed himself as one of America's most interesting directors with this hypnotic, perplexing, sexy, terrifying drama/thriller/horror/mindf**k featuring a star-making performance from Naomi Watts.
Watts plays Betty Elms (well, at first she does...), a young
wannabe actress from Canada who has come to Hollywood with big
dreams. Her aunt is an actress on an out-of-town shoot, and Betty
is going to be staying in her Hollywood apartment.
But upon taking up residence, Betty finds a mysterious, amnesiac, brunette bombshell (Laura Harring) in her aunt's bedroom. The woman names herself Rita after a poster of the Rita Hayworth movie Gilda, and explains to Betty that she has just been in an accident on the titular windy road and doesn't know who she is. She also has in her possession a bag full of cash and a strange blue key...
Mulholland Drive starts off relatively straight-forward, but then goes in all sorts of bizarre, sometimes unexplained, but never random, directions. Other characters come into play - most notably an arrogant young director named Adam Kesher (played hilariously by Justin Theroux - Six Feet Under's Joe). Billy Ray Cyrus shows up. It's a trip.
The film succeeds as a haunting rumination on what ambition in Hollywood can take from you; a dark thriller about two girls on an adventure; a touching and tragic love story between two women; a hilarious satire of Hollywood artifice; or basically whatever you take it to be. It's impossible to characterise, but remains intensely watchable throughout. Those afraid of "arty films" need not worry - there are plenty of conventional thrills on display. It's just that there's also so much more.
Some critics and viewers frustrated themselves trying to work out what it all meant - but they're missing the point. You simply must relent to the mood of the film, and let each scene take you to its unique destination. While it can be fun to try and dissect the film afterward, to do so during viewing will turn your brain inside out. Each moment in the film is accountable only to its own feel.
You're probably better off not focusing on the following fact while watching the film, and Lynch doesn't like to discuss it, but Mulholland Drive began life as the pilot for a television series, which would've been Lynch's first foray into television since the groundbreaking Twin Peaks. But the hour-long pilot wasn't picked up, and French company Canal Plus provided several million dollars for Lynch to "finish" the film (those crazy Euros love Lynch). You'll drive yourself insane trying to work out what was shot for what, so just sit back and wonder about the myriad possibilities of where the series could've gone.
The finished product debuted at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, where it garnered Lynch the Best Director award (he tied with the Coen Bros. for The Man Who Wasn't There). Lynch was also nominated for a Best Director Oscar.
Mulholland Drive is one of the most original, scary, and utterly enthralling films to come out of Hollywood in the last 20 years. Or ever. Watch it. And don't look away.