Hollywood nostalgia can’t even save this stranger than fiction LA mystery
There’s probably a good reason why “Under the Silver Lake” went from a Summer release to a Holiday release to a Spring release. And that reason would be this movie is not a provocative murder mystery set in Los Angeles; it’s a mean-spirited and weird cartoon. It’s like if Alfred Hitchcock teamed up with Ed Wood.
Andrew Garfield stars an LA loser named Sam, who finds a mysterious woman named Sarah (Riley Keough) with a pet dog named Coca-Cola. She tells him to come over the next day, but when he does, she disappears without a trace. So, he has to start snooping around, following people, writing down numbers and symbols (Hobo signs), and reading song lyrics in order to find her.
Meanwhile, Sam keeps hearing reports about a dog killer, and the recent murder of a billionaire. He’s a conspiracy theory nut, who begins reading a zine called “Under the Silver Lake,” and starts suspecting that something evil is going on in the city.
Even Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t be able to follow all this.
The mean-spirited behavior I’m referring to includes Garfield punching and shoving a raw egg in a kid’s mouth for keying a penis on his car, and a girl punching him in the groin in the ladies bathroom, while the others growl at him. How is this watchable?
And the weirdness consists of a number of bizarre and stupid moments. Garfield finds dead animals, gets sprayed by a skunk, hallucinates on a cookie invitation, bashes an old musician’s (Jeremy Bobb) head with a guitar, and meets a bum known as the Homeless King (David Yow). Given his character and situations, this is not the Andrew Garfield we know and love. He would never stoop this low.
And we don’t need to see an image of a toilet filled with excrements and urine.
The best thing about the movie, however, is the score composed by Disasterpeace, which reminds you of such classic thrillers as “Vertigo,” “North by Northwest,” and “Psycho.” The notes keep its would-be provocative scenes in sync, and that feels old-fashioned. And also its nostalgia towards the greatest movie stars like James Dean and Janet Gaynor. It pays tribute to the classics and their stars, if only it acted like a classic.
Writer/director David Robert Mitchell did an impressive job directing “It Follows” in 2015; but I can’t say the same for “Under the Silver Lake.” The writing and fantasies make no sense, the acting is wasted, and the inspiration falls flat. I can’t believe this didn’t just go straight to Netflix, instead of A24, and these studios produce entertaining films.
I can handle bizarre cinema, as long as they’re crafted by such greats as Paul Thomas Anderson, Stanley Kubrick or Yorgos Lanthimos, but the direction this movie heads in makes me uncomfortable.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles Next Week