Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Inland Empire

What can be said about Inland Empire? It's weird even for David Lynch, and it's three hours long. For those not familiar with his movies, they tend to appear to be very random and absurd, but beautifully done. He directs his movies like they're a continuous steam of consciousness. I am a fan of his work, but Inland Empire was a bit too much, and a bit too long for me to truly enjoy the whole thing.

This could be considered the third in a series of unrelated, but similar movies of his (the first two being "Lost Highway", and "Mullholland Drive"). All three of these movies toy with the idea of reality. Both the characters and the audience are in the dark as to what is actually happening, and what is not. In all of these movies actors and actresses can play several different characters, sometimes at the same time, while others characters are created and blink out existence almost randomly. Interestingly, Lynch is able to create a plot just discernible enough to engage an audience. He lulls the viewers into thinking that this time, they might be able to follow the movie. Once this trust is achieved, he throws convention out and presents the rest of the movie in a non-linear vortex.

The "plot" of this movie is about actress, Nikki Grace (Lauren Denn), as she prepares for her career making role. Her and her co-star Devin Berk (Justin Theroux) learn that the movie is actually a remake to a film that never got finished- and here's the kicker- because it was cursed. This could play out a hundred ways, but Lynch crafts a tale that none other could. Inland Empire descends into a swirling mess of a movie within a movie, non-linearity, and humanoid rabbits. Denn's character begins to lose grip on reality, thinking that she is indeed the role she is playing (Susan Blue), and has an affair with Berk (or possibly just his character). Through in a dose of paranoia, and doors that seem to transport you through reality, and you have a pretty good summation of Inland Empire.

After writing about it, I think that I appreciate it more than I did while watching it. During some of the long meandering scenes of color, and after about the tenth scene of Denn running down a hallway away from something we never see, I think I grew a little weary. This movie had fantastic potential, but Lynch just dragged out a little too much. The actors were amazing, especially Harry Dean Stanton as a down-on-his-luck producer. Somehow Lynch always manages to either find actors perfect for the disturbingly eerie roles, or manges to mold them just so.

I think this is a fantastic movie, taken about an hour too far. This is not the first David Lynch movie to get into, however. If you haven't seen any, watch "Lost Highway" first. It has a much more discernible plot. Inland Empire is a fascinating bit of film-making, but the overall brilliance of it is buried beneath three hours of confusion.


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