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Mulholland Dr.

Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring
Naomi Watts and
Laura Elena Harring

Mulholland Dr. (2001) starstar
Reviewed 2002-04-26: "There was an accident," says the dark-haired woman who survived it to the blonde-haired actress who finds her showering in her apartment, "on Mulholland Drive." But the woman, who calls herself Rita (Laura Elena Harring) but can't really remember her name, is compelling enough to get the blonde ing´nue, Betty (Naomi Watts) to help her find her identity. This involves Betty and Rita in some danger, and pulls in an extorted and cuckolded movie director (Justin Theroux), a solicitous landlady (Ann Miller), a dangerous lawyer (Dan Hedaya), a cowboy, a dwarf, and several other odd characters.

In their search, Rita and Betty — or are they Camilla and Diane? — find some unexplainable connections and a love affair, lovingly photographed. But the more you watch Mulholland Dr., the more frustrated you become. Things start out bizarre, and soon become weird. Nothing makes sense. Nothing, that is, unless you approach his film like the bad dream it so precisely resembles. It's not so much that violence is prevalent, as that a creeping sense of menace pervades. It is as if the dreamer were trying to wake, but the dream is too powerful to release its hold on the unconscious.

That's the only way to get through this film, written and directed by the same David Lynch who gave us "Twin Peaks" on TV (which also included a dwarf) and the seriously strange Blue Velvet, among other explorations of the fearful world inside the heads of his characters. I can say newcomers Watts and Harring are riveting onscreen, with good interpersonal chemistry, and that helps a lot. But I can't say whether Lynch, who makes a point of telling us he's a former Boy Scout, is a true cinematic genius — or he's just toying with his audience. I could go either way on this film: >Mulholland Dr. is a treat for David Lynch fans, but a frustration for the rest of us.

Mulholland Dr. (2001) 145 mins. Directed by David Lynch. Written by David Lynch. Cast: Justin Theroux as Adam Kesher, Naomi Watts as Betty Elms/Diane Selwyn, Laura Elena Harring as Rita/Camilla Rhodes, Ann Miller as Coco Lenoix, Dan Hedaya as Vincenzo Castigliane, Mark Pellegrino as Joe, Brent Briscoe as Detective Neal Domgaard, Robert Forster as Detective Harry McKnight, Katharine Towne as Cynthia, casting assistant, Lee Grant as Louise Bonner, Scott Coffey as Wilkins, Billy Ray Cyrus as Gene, pool cleaning man, Chad Everett as Jimmy "Woody" Katz, Rita Taggart as Linney James, James Karen as Wally Brown. Also known as: Mulholland Drive (2001) (USA: closing credits title).

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.