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Film / Mulholland Dr.

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Betty (left) and Rita (right) are also wondering what the hell is going on.

"It's strange to be calling yourself."

Mulholland Drive is a 2001 mind-screwing drama/mystery directed by mind screw king David Lynch that helped launch the career of Naomi Watts.

The plot primarily focuses on two young women: Betty Elms (Watts), a perky blonde Canadian who comes to Hollywood to pursue an acting career, and Rita (Laura Harring), 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 (Justin Theroux), 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, 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.

It also has nothing to do with the 1996 film Mulholland Falls.


This film provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Due to the fact that the movie was originally intended to be a TV series, several storylines basically go nowhere; see also The Artifact.
  • Alien Fair Folk: The Cowboy may be this, given his relation to electricity (lightbulb turning on/off when he appears/disappears), his somewhat Uncanny Valley appearance and behavior, and numerous similarities to characters of this type from Twin Peaks.
  • All Just a Dream: Everything up until Rita opens the box. Maybe.
  • Ambiguously Human: Again, The Cowboy. The man behind Winkies is a trifle less ambiguous.
  • All There in the Manual: Sort of. David Lynch was kind enough to provide ten clues in the DVD's booklet, to help the viewer "unlock" the movie. The clues are as follows:
    1. Pay particular attention in the beginning of the film: At least two clues are revealed before the credits.
    2. Notice appearances of the red lampshade.
    3. Can you hear the title of the film that Adam Kesher is auditioning actresses for? Is it mentioned again?
    4. An accident is a terrible event—notice the location of the accident.
    5. Who gives a key, and why?
    6. Notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup.
    7. What is felt, realized and gathered at the Club Silencio?
    8. Did talent alone help Camilla?
    9. Note the occurrences surrounding the man behind Winkie's.
    10. Where is Aunt Ruth?
    • This being David Lynch, most of the clues are pretty confusing in themselves—but some actually do help, like the one that tells you to pay attention to the details of the pre-credits sequence; and the one saying to pay attention to the two appearances of the blue key in the film. Basically it points towards the first part being a dream. Sort of...
  • 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.'
  • Are You Sure You Want to Do That?: Joe during the point-of-no-return scene at Winkies.
  • The Artifact: This film began life as an ABC pilot, and was reworked by Lynch as a feature film after ABC rejected it. There are bits in the movie that never go anywhere, presumably because they would have been developed in the proposed series. Robert Forster appears in one scene as a detective investigating the car crash and is never seen again. Neither is Mr. Roque after the shooting of Adam's movie was stopped.
  • As You Know: Lampshaded by Betty when talking about her aunt's whereabouts: "She's letting me stay here while she's working on a movie that's being made in Canada, but I guess you know that".
  • Ate His Gun: How Diane Selwyn killed herself.
  • Author Avatar: The Magician's words carry meaning that seem to come straight from the mouth of the director.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Rita, during the kitchen rehearsing.
  • 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/Diane and Rita/Camilla.
  • 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.
  • Black Comedy: The hired hit man's first scene, as well as Billy Ray Cyrus's scenes.
  • Bland-Name Product: The Winkie's diner is a pretty clear pastiche of Denny's, down to having an identical colour scheme and similar-looking logo.
  • Blatant Lies: The hitman telling a watching janitor that his heavyset victim is hurt bad, and he wants to call an ambulance for her, while she's violently struggling in his arms.
  • Bloodless Carnage: The people that Joe shoots stay remarkably clean.
  • Blowing Smoke Rings: Adam is blowing a smoking ring during the song rehearsal.
  • Body Horror: Mr. Roque, with his bizarrely shrunken head on top of his normal-sized body, is a slightly more subdued example.
  • Brown Note: Who/What ever that is behind Winkies, the mere sight of ... it is enough to give someone a heart attack.
  • Bury Your Gays: Diane/Betty - and probably Camilla/Rita, though the latter was bisexual.
  • Butt-Monkey: Adam's day starts out bad, and quickly goes From Bad to Worse as it seems as though everyone and everything is conspiring against him. By the end, he's a broke man hiding out in a seedy motel in downtown Los Angeles.
  • Call-Back: The second, reality-based portion of the film is absolutely packed to the gills with this. With the exception of Mr. Roque and the two detectives, virtually everything from the first part of the movie, Diane's dream, shows up in the second part of the movie, reflecting how her dream took details from real life.
    • Adam Kesher and Diane's roommate from the dream appear in real life as themselves, but all the other callbacks involve people from the dream showing up in real life as a different person. "Camilla Rhodes", the character from the first part of the movie who steals a part from Betty thanks to the Mafia, appears in the real-life part as an unnamed character who seems to have stolen Real Camilla's affections, at least her lesbian affections.
    • The Arc Words "This is the girl" are, in the dream, what Adam is told to say as the signal that he's giving in and casting Camilla Rhodes in the movie. In real life they're the words that Diane says to the hitman as she hands over Real Camilla's publicity photo.
    • The mysterious bag of money that Rita finds herself with in the dream, is in real life the money that Diane hands over to the hitman.
    • The mysterious, odd blue key in the first part appears as a more ordinary, but much more ominous blue key in the second part, when it's used to deliver a message.
    • The whole opening sequence—the Mulholland Dr. street sign, the limo stopping, Rita saying "We don't stop here"—is all repeated in the second part, where it's shown to actually be Diane going to Camilla's party.
    • In the first part of the movie, where Naomi Watts plays wide-eyed ingenue Betty, the waitress at Winkie's is named Diane. In the second part of the movie, the Real Life part where Naomi Watts is revealed to be bitter failed actress Diane, the waitress at Winkie's is named Betty. This ties in with Diane's admission in the second part of the movie that she worked as a waitress at Winkie's.
    • Some things in the dream are taken from entirely trivial things in the "real life" part of the movie. The Cowboy, who is such an ominous, scary character in the first part, is only briefly glimpsed in the second part as a guest at Adam's party. In the first part, the hitman kills his buddy over a book on the buddy's desk that is apparently very important; in the second part the book is simply sitting on the table at the diner next to the hit man, and it has nothing to do with anything.
  • The Cameo: Robert Forster as Detective McKnight and Dan Hedaya as Vincenzo Castigliane. Considering that the film was originally developed as a television pilot, both actors were intended to have more screen time; there's even some deleted footage with Forster still available online. Due to Executive Meddling however, the series was paired down to a two and a half hour movie and all but one of their respective scenes were cut.
  • Canada, Eh?: Where Betty came from.
  • The Cassandra: Louise Bonner and the Magician are two psychically sensitive Lynch characters who see things and speak in omens.
  • Censor Shadow: In the bedroom, when Rita unrobes, we see little more than just her silhouette against the light coming in through the window.note 
  • Cheating with the Poolman: Returning home early, Adam finds his wife in bed with the poolman.
  • Chekhov's Gunman A shorter term instance than most examples, but the MC at the Spanish stage show gives a lecture on false images and wish fulfillment.
  • Classy Cane: The Magician has one.
  • Collateral Damage: Joe's efforts to make a hit look like suicide are complicated when the gun misfires and hits a woman in the next room over.
  • Color-Coded Characters: Betty often wears light blue and grey, Rita usually wears red and black.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Comically averted when Joe accidental pulls the trigger on Ed's gun and the bullet passes through the wall to hit the fat lady in the next room.
  • Conversation Casualty: Joe executing Ed in the middle of a cheerful conversation.
  • Conversation Cut: The scene with Betty and Rita at Winkies, when Rita starts to remember something, the scene cuts to Havenhurst, where Rita finally lets Betty in on her findings.
  • Cool Old Lady: Coco. At least in the first act.
  • Creator Cameo: Angelo Badalamenti, who composed the soundtrack, appears as one of the Castigliane Brothers.
  • Creepy Monotone: The Cowboy most notably, but Mr. Roque and the Castigliane Brothers also qualify.
  • Crime After Crime: Played for laughs with Joe, the inept hitman. After the gun accidentally goes off and hits the heavyset woman, he has to go through quite some trouble (and a body count of 2) in order to cover up that mistake.
  • Crosscast Role: The much-mentioned man behind Winkie's is actually actress Bonnie Aarons. Bet you didn't see that coming, eh?
  • Cuckold: Adam finds his wife with the pool man and after some struggle gets shamefully evicted from his own home.
  • Curse of the Ancients: Coco, Betty's landlady, curses like this.
    "What you're telling me is a load of horse-pucky..."
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Near the end, Diane Selwyn has this kind of date. It is extremely unsexy, seeing as how she's weeping as she's getting herself off.
  • Daylight Horror: The "man behind Winkie's" scene is somehow made even more disturbing by the fact that it happens in broad daylight.
  • Dedication: The film was dedicated to Jennifer Syme.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Adam in the first half becomes one as he tries to understand just what the hell is happening to him. By the end he's permanently trapped in Sarcasm Mode.
  • Deus ex 'Scuse Me: The phone call that keeps the woman in #12 from joining Betty and Rita, so that they can enter #17 on their own terms. Justified, as the whole scene was "plotted" by Diane's subconscious.
  • Died Happily Ever After: The last image of Betty and Rita cheering Together in Death, superimposed on the L.A. skyline, carries this message. Possibly.
  • Dirty Old Man: It is implied that the actor who auditioned with Betty is one, judging by the "they can be catty at times" line in the scene after.
  • Discovering Your Own Dead Body: If Betty is in fact Diane Selwyn, that is, though she doesn't seem to realize it at the time (since it's most probably a dream).
  • Double-Meaning Title: The title initially is a reference to the car accident that takes place on Mulholland Drive. In real life, Mulholland Drive is a road that leads to the general Hollywood area, so the title is also a reference to Betty's journey to become an actress at Hollywood. Likewise, the actual road is known for its twists and turns, which is reflected by the film's Halfway Plot Switch and Mind Screw elements. Later, the title fits with the film's strong anti-Hollywood theme mixed in its narrative.
  • Downer Ending: Excusing the mind screw elements, the film ends on a real massive downer no matter what interpretation. Though arguably also a Pyrrhic Victory, as Diane finally managed to silence her fear and guilt.
  • Dramatic Shattering: As a cut-over from the highly emotional dinner party scene to Winkies where the waitress drops some dishes.
  • Driven to Suicide: Diane's guilt-ridden exit.
  • Drone of Dread: The soundtrack is about two thirds this and one third dissonant 50's music. Something of a Creator Thumbprint for Lynch.
  • Dye or Die: After seeing a corpse in the bed which she believes to be her own, Rita decides to cut her hair short in an attempt to avoid being recognized. But Betty has a better idea, hiding Rita under a blonde wig of her aunt's.
  • Eldritch Location: Winkies Diner might be one, or at least the alleyway behind it.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: Mr. Roque, in his first meeting with Adam.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Laura Harring's character is being admired by Betty/Diane as well as Blondie at the dinner party.
  • Epic Fail: The scene where the hired killer first appears.
  • Evil Old Folks: Miniature evil old folks, no less.
  • Executive Meddling: In-universe example with the dubious figure of Mr. Roque, who is working entirely behind the scenes, exerting his power through the Castigliane brothers ("This is no longer your film"). It's one of the main themes of the first of the movie's two parts, portraying Hollywood as an outright conspiracy/gang that enforces arbitrary decisions onto directors for unexplained reasons.
  • Fanservice: Rita and Betty have a fairly explicit sex scene about halfway through.note 
  • 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. The poster of Gilda starring Rita Hayworth is briefly shown, which is where Laura Harring's character draws her chosen name from.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: Involving at least five different characters.
  • Gainax Ending: Although the whole movie is very surreal, the entire second part (starting when the blue box is opened) can be considered this since it suddenly portrays an alternate version of the story where everything and everyone is different. Even that ends very abruptly with strange monster versions of Betty's traveling companions from the start of the film tormenting Diane, causing her to shoot herself.
  • Genre-Busting: "Mystery" is perhaps the most informative way this film could be described to someone who's never heard of it.
  • Get Out!: Get out! Get out before I call my dad ...
  • Gratuitous French: The magician is abusing this trope.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Cookie, the hotel manager, throwing in some Spanish vocabulary.
  • 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.
  • Hand Gagging: Betty is muffling Rita's scream when encountering the corpse of Diane Selwyn.
  • Held Gaze: Hot looks exchanged between Betty and "Dad's best friend" in the audition scene.
  • The Hero Dies: A rare case when it's almost not a spoiler - good luck figuring out who the hero is.
  • Hell Is That Noise: That horribly distorted roar-like noise that punctuates the Jump Scare behind Winkies.
  • Hollywood, California: After all, the subtitle describes the film as "a love story in the city of dreams."
  • Home-Early Surprise: Adam is fired from his directing job so he comes home early to find his wife in bed with the poolman. After a scuffle, he is forced out of his house.
  • Horrible Hollywood: It looks like Hollywood all but adjoins with hell. There is something rotten here, in the airless boardrooms, moving in the back alleys. More specifically, Hollywood is where dreams die as seen with Diane whose dream of becoming a successful actress fails due to her own lack of talent. Her dream of becoming Camila's lover fails because Camila while a talented actress is ultimately a cruel and manipulative person, and it is implied Camila used underhanded tactics to gain greater success as an actress as seen in her interactions with Adam and Diane. Even in Diane's fantasy as Betty, she doesn't get her dream acting role because the mafia threatened Adam in choosing a specific actress over her and everyone else.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The man behind Winkie's. And the Evil Old Folks. And the Cowboy too (maybe?).
  • If I Can't Have You...: Seemingly Diane's motive for murder, after Camilla breaks off their relationship, with jealousy over Camilla's far more successful career being a secondary motive.
  • If You Can Read This: On Blu-Ray versions you can see that the script Rita reads from during the kitchen rehearsal is actually a page from the script to Mulholland Dr.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Perpetrated by the most negligent hitman since Vincent Vega.
  • Jump Scare: One of the most iconic examples of the modern age - This is how the man behind Winkies is introduced, only to disappear just as quickly.
  • Jitter Cam: Severely downplayed, and done with exceptional subtlety. In several scenes that are otherwise completely normal, they're shot featuring a handheld, eerily free-floating camera that drifts abnormally up and down over the actors, adding to the feeling that the whole thing is that much more detached from reality.
  • Kubrick Stare:
    • The master of ceremonies at Club Silencio gives one before seeming to disappear in a puff of smoke.
    • 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.)
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Betty and Rita. Betty is blonde-haired and blue-eyed and chipper and outgoing. Rita is dark-haired and sultry and mysterious and seductive.
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: Laura Harring's amnesiac character takes the name "Rita" after seeing a Rita Hayworth poster.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Betty and Rita. Also Camilla and Blond Camilla kissing at the dinner party.
  • Little Black Dress: Worn by the two female leads at different points in the film.
  • 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.
  • Love at First Sight: Played with. When Betty enters the set, she and Adam lock eyes and the camera zooms in on their faces. Nothing comes of this situation though.
  • The Mafia: It's highly implied that Mr. Roque and the Castigliane Brothers aren't your typical meddling executives.
  • Match Cut: Diane turns away angrily at the party when she finds out that Camilla and Adam are getting married...cut to Diane turning away angrily in the diner, as she hires the hitman.
  • Mary Sue: An In-Universe example with Betty, who turns out to be Diane's idealized image of herself. Diane is a failed actress who got dumped by Camilla. She didn't get a part in The Sylvia North Story because the director didn't like her. She's bitter and filled with rage. Diane imagines/dreams that she is Betty, a talented actress who knocks everybody's socks off at the audition. In her fantasy, she wins the love of "Rita" instead of getting dumped. And in her fantasy she didn't miss out on that part because she wasn't good enough, she lost the part because the Mafia made Adam Kesher cast someone else.
  • Mind Screw: 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.
  • Mockspiracy: The omniscient Hollywood conspiracy involving mafia, men on black limos, and a mysterious wheelchair-bound kingpin Mr. Roque was just a fantasy of a failed actress Diane Selwyn ... possibly.
  • Mockstery Tale: It starts as a quintessential mystery movie involving an amnesiac Femme Fatale Rita in Los Angeles, a young enthusiastic actress Betty trying to help her, a mafia syndicate, a hitman after a mysterious black book, etc. However, Betty and Rita's investigation clarifies very little, and the story takes a really surreal turn from a certain point...
  • Mundane Horror: The "man behind Winkies" scene is the quintessence of this. Two men are talking in a diner, with one of them telling the other about a nightmare he had, in which there was a horrible abomination in the back of the diner. Everything happens in broad daylight, with many customers around, and nothing indicates anything out of the ordinary. Nonetheless, they go to check, and when it looks like nobody is there, and he is about to calm down... the abomination actually appears.
  • Mysterious Past: Rita. This is resolved in the second half of the film... possibly.
  • Never Say That Again: Diane demands this from Camilla during the couch scene, when Camilla says she wants to stop having sex.
  • No Brows: The Cowboy's creepiness is amplified by his lack of eyebrows.
  • Non-Singing Voice:
    • Due to the Mind Screw nature of the film, it's hard to determine if Melissa George's character is actually singing Linda Scott's "I've Told Every Little Star" or if she's also lip syncing it In-Universe. (It is heavily implied and speculated that her character is a "talent-less bimbo").
    • In an odd case (befitting the film's theme), Rebekah Del Rio is lip syncing her own song.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: A Lynch trademark, exemplified in the "man behind Winkies" scene. Almost five minutes of low-key, almost hushed conversation as build-up, then the two men leave the diner, with both of them (and the audience) terrified of what they might find behind the restaurant as the camera creeeeeeeeeeeeps towards the wall, and then, BOOM.
  • Ominous Cube: The Blue Box is a mysterious device that seems to be a portal between realities. At one point, Rita opens it with a matching key and is then sucked into it. The scene transitions to a different reality where characters take on different roles.
  • Ominous Knocking:
    • There's a suspenseful moment of Betty and Rita sitting at night in Ruth's Havenhurst apartment when somebody knocks on the front door. It turns out to be Luise.
    • Heard again at the end, when Diane sits alone in the dark of her apartment and gets startled by sudden knocking on the front door which culminates in a nightmare sequence.
  • On a Soundstage All Along: A zoom-out reveals the song "16 Reasons Why I Love You" to be performed on a soundstage.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The phone call chain early on, which starts with Mr. Roque and ends in an unknown dark room lid by a red lamp shade. Later we learn that this is Diane's bedroom when we see her answer a different call.
  • Ostentatious Secret: A key element is a little blue box with a matching key.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: The actors/actresses auditioning during the musical audition scene wears said colors.
  • Pink Means Feminine: During the musical audition scene, all the women auditioning have pink in their attire with Melissa George's Camilla Rhodes wearing an all pink dress.
  • Politically Correct History: Integrated music groups (two Negro and two white backup singers) as seen in the early 1960s set piece of the "Sylvia North Story" are unlikely for the period.
  • Production Foreshadowing:
    • The movie borrows its name from an actual California location and takes place at Hollywood. Five years later, Lynch would do the same again but in a more incoherent manner with Inland Empire.
    • Fast-forward sixteen years, and many people have commented on the similarities between the thing behind Winkie's and the Woodsmen from Twin Peaks.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Diane Selwyn, who goes mad with jealousy after Camilla dumps her.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "No. Hay. Banda! There is. No. Band!"
  • Quest for Identity: Rita with the help of Betty, after her amnesia from the car accident.
  • Reality Warper: May or may not be the hobo or the cowboy or the magician or Diane.
  • Red Herring: Several plot points and storylines that are implied to be clues to the mystery, but eventually don't go anywhere. This includes the detectives at the car crash, the mafia and Mr. Roque, and "Ed's black book".
  • Red Herring Twist: The whole movie is composed of those. The first half of it has several seemingly unrelated storylines, implying that eventually they will tie together somehow; in the second half, they are either completely dropped (like the mafia kingpin Mr. Roque) or used in unexpected, Mind Screwy way (like the hitman Joe and his black book). Possibly explained by the fact that the whole first part of the movie was the protagonist's dream... or was it?
  • Sanity Slippage: Diane becomes the victim of this.
  • Sequencing Deception: In its last act (which conflicts with much of what is shown before), does some rapid intercutting between scenes that take place before and after the second-to-last scene.
  • Scare Chord: Go buy the soundtrack and listen to all of "Diner".
  • Scenery Censor: During Rita's Shower Scene, the shower door is notably foggy from the moisture. Word of God said they did it on purpose so Laura Harring's Sexy Silhouette won't appear much clearer as she's actually fully nude at that scene.
  • 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...
  • Set Behind the Scenes: A film noir about a movie shoot.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Due to the fact that the movie started as a TV series pilot, the whole first part of the movie is a collection of shaggy dog stories, full of premises that end with nothing. Betty getting her movie role and moment between her and Adam Kesher, Rita's amnesia and Nancy Drew-style investigation of her mysterious past, Kesher's misadventures involving the mafia and the Cowboy...
  • She Really Can Act: Used in-universe to startling effect at Betty's audition after her terrible rehearsal with Rita.
  • Shot in the Ass: The heavy-set woman.
  • Shot Reverse Shot: This technique is prominently featured during the conversation at Winkies between Dan and Herb. It's subtly creepy, because as noted under Jitter Cam, the camera doesn't stay still during their conversation, but drifts eerily, as if floating through space.
  • 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 use of the Mulholland Drive street sign as a title drop is a shout-out to the same thing in Sunset Boulevard. 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. Given The Reveal at the end of Carnival of Souls, this is also Foreshadowing.
    • Some of the more nightmarish sequences allude heavily to the Brazilian "Coffin Joe" films.
  • Show Within a Show: Types 1 and 3. The Sylvia North Story is the fictional movie being auditioned for (first part) and worked on (second part).
  • Silent Credits: Except for some deep noise. Makes sense, as the last line in the film says "Silencio." (Spanish for "silence")
  • Smash Cut: The abrupt cut from the dinner party to crashing dishes at Winkies.
  • Smoke Out: The Magician finishes his act at Club Silencio using this trick.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: At the move exec conference, Luigi Castigliane is more interested in his espresso than the discussion about the main actress.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The Fifties pop music clashes with the cynical tone.
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • To Lynch’s previous film Lost Highway as they are both about characters who adapt multiple identities and explore altered environments that are implied to be delusions on the protagonists' parts. Some viewers and critics have even commented that Mulholland Drive's narrative structure is the reverse of Lost Highway's narrative structure.
    • To Sunset Boulevard, one of Lynch's favorite films. Both movies borrow their titles from actual Hollywood streets, and their titles are even stylized the same way. Not only that, but both films are also very critical of Hollywood, and their protagonists are unsuccessful actresses who are trapped in their own fantasies.
  • Staring Contest: Adam holds one with Vincenzo Castigliane at the conference.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: The cowboy. Also the hobo at the diner.
  • Stunned Silence: When Adam finds his wife in bed with Billy Ray Cyrus.
  • 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.
    • If you're still skeptical as to whether or not that was intentional, just look at her audition scene halfway through the film. Not only does her character act well in the scene, but Naomi Watts acts acting well. Not too many actresses that can do that.
  • Sweater Girl: Laney, the prostitute, is wearing a sweater and she seems to be freezing.
  • Take That!: Executive Meddling as portrayed by Mr Roque and the Castigliane brothers really exists in Hollywood. Lynch is showing them for what they are, how they squeeze the creative life out of the business.
  • There Is Only One Bed: "You don't have to sleep on that couch!"
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: Dan is so preoccupied with his dream that he doesn't touch his breakfast at Winkies.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Up to debate, but the scene with sudden appearance of already deceased Camilla at Diane's place as well as one directly leading to Diane's suicide certainly qualify. Rule of Symbolism also applies though.
  • Title Drop: Mulholland Drive gets mentioned as a place where something mysterious must take place... and then again by Diane Selwyn, in the "real world" version.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Part of the most popular interpretation.
  • Translated Cover Version: The movie features Rebekah Del Rio performing an admittedly unrecognizable Spanish a capella rendition of Roy Orbison's "Crying."
  • The Treachery of Images: "No hay banda! There is no band. Il n'y a pas d'orchestre."
  • Trick Dialogue: During the kitchen rehearsal when the zoom-out from Rita's face reveals her to recite lines from a script.
  • Two-Act Structure: Sappy first act, darker second act, the first revealed as a dream.
  • 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.
  • Van in Black: In certain intervals we see The Men in Black in a sedan drive around Havenhurst and Sierra Bonita, adding to the theme of paranoia expressed in the first half of the film.
  • Visual Title Drop: Designed as a Shout-Out to Sunset Boulevard - in both films there is no actual title card with one of the first shots simply showing a street marker.
  • Waiting for a Break: Waiting tables at Winkies was supposedly one of Diane's occupations in L.A. while waiting for her breakthrough.
  • Walk and Talk: The scene where Linney and Cynthia walk Betty out of the audition to the elevator.
  • Woman Scorned: Another popular interpretation - the uncommon lesbian or bisexual version.
  • World of Mysteries: This movie's version of Hollywood is this: it has mafia, mysterious Men in Black on limos, an enigmatic phone call chain involving unspecified people from different parts of LA, weird McGuffins like a strangely shaped blue key and a black book with phone numbers, supernatural entities like the Ambiguously Human Cowboy and a creepy bum living in the backyard of a diner, and much more... Probably subverted, since the ending implies that it was a dream of a failed actress who ordered a hit on her successful friend and lover out of envy and jealousy, and the overall feel of mystery and paranoia is due to her subconscious feel of guilt and fear of being caught. Then again, maybe not.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Adam almost did this to his cheating wife until the poolman/her lover intervened. Later, a mobster didn't hold back on doing the same thing.


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