Betty (left) and Rita (right) are also wondering what the hell is going on.
"It's strange to be calling yourself."
is a 2001 drama/mystery Mind Screw
directed by mind screw king David Lynch
that helped launch the career of Naomi Watts
. The movie received generally positive reviews. At the end of the 2000s it has been called one of the best films of the decade by quite a few critics and viewers.
The positive critical reaction even included a four-star rave review from Roger Ebert
who, with the exception of The Straight Story
, had hated most of Lynch's films. Previously, Lynch had celebrated the "two thumbs down" from Siskel and Ebert for Lost Highway
Many of those who saw it admitted to having no idea what the hell it was about: True Art Is Incomprehensible
. Like several of Lynch's films it aims to work as poetry more than a linear narrative.
The plot primarily focuses on two young women: Betty Elms, a perky blonde Canadian who comes to Hollywood to pursue an acting career, and Rita, a sultry brunette who's developed a case of amnesia after an attempted hit on her turned car accident on the titular Mulholland Drive.
After arriving at LAX and moving into her aunt Ruth's apartment, Betty discovers a nude Rita in the shower and isn't too weirded out because she thinks that Rita is a friend of her aunt Ruth's. However, she soon finds out that Rita has amnesia and that all she remembers is being in the accident. They then discover not only sets of 100 dollar bills in Rita's purse but also a blue key, further increasing the mystery. So out of the goodness of her heart and because "It'll be just like in the movies!", Betty decides to play Nancy Drew
and help Rita discover her true identity, and the two become fast friends (and more
In addition to the main plot, there is also a film director who just can't seem to catch a break. He even walks in on his wife in bed with their pool man, played by Billy Ray Cyrus of all people. Betty's eccentric landlady is played by Ann Miller in her final role before her death. There is a terribly inept hitman played by
the incomparable Mark Pellegrino, a creepy cowboy who may or may not be part of this world, a surreal theatre with an even more surreal magician/MC, that mysterious blue box (no, not that one
), and some sort of grungy zombie hobo who lives behind an old-fashioned diner and gives a man a heart attack at just the sight of it.
Yes, it's one of those movies.
A well-made movie, but certainly not for everyone. Just like nearly every Lynch film, viewers tend to Love It or Hate It
. But it's certainly worth watching at least once, as the direction is aces, the writing is clever and the acting is fairly solid across the board, especially that of Naomi Watts
. Just expect lots of Mind Screw
This film contains examples of:
- All Just a Dream: Everything up until Rita opens the box. Or Was It a Dream?
- Anachronic Order: In the real life sequence later in the movie, we see the blue key, which means that Brunette Camilla has been killed, but later scenes clearly take place before that moment.
- Arc Words: 'This is the girl'
- Beard of Evil: While calling the magician/MC in Club Silencio "evil" is a bit of a stretch, he's still pretty creepy.
- Betty and Veronica, or rather Betty and Rita.
- Big Fancy House: Adam Kesher has one of these. Of course, he does live on Mulholland Drive, a place famous for its Big Fancy Houses.
- Brown Note:
Who Whatever that is behind Winkies, the mere sight of ... it is enough to give someone a heart attack.
- Chekhov's Gunman A shorter term instance than most examples, but the MC at the Spanish stage show gives a lecture on The Treachery of Images and Wish Fulfillment.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Near the end, Naomi Watts has this kind of date.
- David Lynch: Indubitably.
- Daylight Horror: The "man behind Winkies" scene is somehow made even more disturbing by the fact that it happens in broad daylight.
- Driven to Suicide: Diane's guilt-ridden exit.
- Dying Dream: One of many interpretations.
- Emerging From The Shadows: Mr. Roque.
- Epic Fail: The scene where the hired killer first appears.
- Evil Old Folks: Miniature evil old folks, no less.
- Executive Meddling: An actual plot point ("This is no longer your film").
- Fanservice: Naomi Watts and Laura Harring
- And they're not the only hot women in the movie.
- Fan Disservice: The masturbation scene displeases some viewers. Betty's audition with someone 40 years older than her deserves a mention.
- Film Noir: The film could be called an homage to the genre. For example the character of Betty Elms is clearly inspired by many of Hitchcock's noir heroines. She even wears a dress suit that looks exactly like the one worn by Kim Novak in Vertigo.
- Film Within A Film: Types 1 and 3. The Sylvia North Story is the fictional movie being auditioned for (first part) and worked on (second part).
- Freaky Friday Flip: Involving at least five different characters.
- Gainax Ending: Puzzling.
- Get Out: Get out! Get out before I call my dad ...
- Grotesque Gallery: The "man behind Winkies" isn't exactly someone you'd want to meet in a dark alley. Or anywhere.
- Halfway Plot Switch: Everything changes after Rita drops the blue box.
- Hollywood California: After all, the subtitle describes the film as "a love story in the city of dreams".
- Horrible Hollywood: It looks like Hollywood but ajoins with hell. There is something rotten here, in the airless boardrooms, moving in the back alleys.
- Humanoid Abomination: The Cowboy — maybe. And the man behind Winkie's. And the Evil Old Folks.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Perpetrated by the most negligent hitman since Vincent Vega.
- I Was Quite a Looker: Betty's landlady Coco Lenoix, played by Ann Miller, a dancer and actress who was a fixture in movie musicals of the 1940s and 50s.
- Jump Scare: This is how the Bum is introduced.
- Kubrick Stare: Near the end, Naomi Watts gives one of these. It's incredibly chilling.
- Lampshade Hanging: Adam notes what a stock character the Cowboy is.
- Large Ham: That magician sure loves his ham. And as mentioned in Narm, the film's first part features quite a bit of intentional overacting from every corner (Except The Cowboy.)
- Line-of-Sight Name: Laura Harring's amnesiac character takes the name "Rita" after seeing a Rita Hayworth poster.
- Lipstick Lesbian: Naomi Watts (Betty) is hot. Laura Elena Harring (Rita) is hot. Together, they're sexier than a good deal of actual pornos. Works as Fanservice.
- Little People Are Surreal: Played with, although most viewers aren't sure what's even going on in that scene. Basically, dwarf actor Michael J. Anderson (of Twin Peaks fame) wears the prosthetic body of a big person, with only his head showing. The effect is weird.
- Los Angeles: Hits many of the major visual icons. Mulholland Dr., LAX, a palm tree-lined boulevard, etc. Has some lesser known ones: Pink's Hot Dogs, Topanga Canyon.
- Lotus-Eater Machine: The first two thirds of the movie. According to popular theory, it is Diane's dying wish to re-imagine herself as Betty.
- Louis Cypher: according to various theories, the Cowboy, Mr. Roque, the Bum or the Magician could be this. Actually a very popular Epileptic Tree.
- The Mafia: It's highly implied that Mr. Roque and the Castigliane Bros. aren't your typical meddling executives.
- Mind Screw: and how! There's some meta-Mind Screwing as well. One reviewer noted that the prostitute outside Pink's Hot Dogs also sort of looks like Naomi Watts, and asked how many characters she actually played in the movie. Watts: "It depends." (The part was played by an actress named Rena Riffel.)
- Miniature Senior Citizens, in the most literal and nightmarish sense.
- Mismatched Eyes: Joe, in the first part, is having one blue and one brown eye.
- Once More With Clarity: The phone call chain early on that ends in an unknown dark room lid by a red lamp shade. Later we learn that this is Diane's place as we see her answer the call.
- Ostentatious Secret: A key element is a little blue box with a matching key.
- Proscenium Reveal: In the Club Silencio sequence, Rebekah Del Rio collapses during her performance of "Llorando" yet we continue to hear her singing, which causes Betty and Rita (and the viewers) to realize she had been lipsyncing.
- Psycho Lesbian: Diane Selwyn.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "No. Hay. Banda! There is. No. Band!"
- Rape Leads to Insanity: Some theories argue that childhood abuse may have attributed to Diane's high dream of becoming an actress which as we know ended in failure and depression.
- Reality Warper: Diane as Betty gets to reimagine her life the way she wants it as part of a dying dream. The real Reality Warper in the movie may or may not be the hobo or the cowboy or the magician.
- Sanity Slippage: All it took to send Diane over the edge was some knocking on the door.
- Scare Chord: Go buy the soundtrack and listen to all of "Diner". Make sure to wear headphones, and have them turned up all the way.
- Schrödinger's Butterfly: The big brain hump of this movie is wondering which is real; the last half hour, or everything preceding it? Or both? Or neither? Or both and neither? Or...
- Shot in the Ass: The heavy-set woman.
- Shout Out: numerous homages to various films. Some of them (including The Wizard of Oz and Ingmar Bergman's Persona), seem to be intended as points of reference.
- Also Sunset Boulevard, which also has an ingenue named Betty. The actual car from Sunset Boulevard is parked at the entrance of the studio lot when Betty Elms goes for her audition.
- Fight Club contains a blink-and-you'll-miss-it homage to Blue Velvet, where the characters walk past a street sign (it reads "Lincoln" in Blue Velvet, "Washington" in Fight Club). Lynch seems to have taken note: early in Mulholland Drive, a shot of a man's arm reaching for a phone is identical to the shot of Tyler Durden picking up the phone in his first encounter with Marla.
- Carnival of Souls, when Rita exits the crashed car.
- Some of the more nightmarish sequences allude heavily to the Brazilian "Coffin Joe" films.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The Fifties pop music.
- Stray Shots Strike Nothing: Averted. A hitman's efforts to make a hit look like suicide are complicated when the gun misfires and hits a woman in the next room over.
- Stylistic Suck: Were you somewhat annoyed or surprised by Naomi Watts' poor, exaggerated, even Narmy acting throughout the beginning of the film? This is indeed intentional and will make (some) sense in the end.
- There Is Only One Bed: "You don't have to sleep on that couch!"
- Tomato in the Mirror: Part of the most popular interpretation.
- The Treachery of Images: "No hay banda! There is no band. Il n'y a pas d'orchestre."
- Two Act Structure: Sappy first act, darker second act.
- The Unsolved Mystery: Just like many other movies by David Lynch. We DO actually learn the true identity of Rita, but it doesn't help things in any way.
- Wish Fulfillment: In-Universe, the first half of the film. Maybe.
- Woman Scorned: Another popular interpretation.