October 12, 2001
This is a film by David Lynch. And that pretty much says it all right there.
More specifically, this is the pilot to what would have been Lynch's much-heralded return to episodic television. Commissioned by ABC, home of Lynch's last TV creation, Twin Peaks, the series was originally slated for the 2001-2002 season. But apparently the powers that be over at the Alphabet Network were too perplexed by Lynch's pilot to greenlight the series, and Lynch has retaliated by opening the film at Cannes, where it was nominated for a Golden Palm and won a Best Director nod.
And now it is to see limited theatrical release in the US. The plot, such as it is, concerns three people, brought together by the kind of circumstances one can only find in a David Lynch film.
To begin with, there's Rita. That's not her real name, of course; Rita suffers from amnesia, and she took the name from poster for Gilda, Rita Hayworth's most famous role. Rita is introduced to the audience at the top of the show in a most dramatic fashion: at the top of the eponymous Hollywood street, two men force her out of a car at gunpoint; a group of joyriding teenagers literally crash the scene, killing the two men in the car and causing Rita's amnesia. Rita wanders away to a nearby apartment complex to hide and try and regain her memory.
Then there's Betty, a fresh-faced young kid from the Midwest come to seek her fame and fortune in Hollywood, and also to visit her aunt, who lives in the self-same apartment building where Rita has washed ashore. Betty decides to help Rita discover who she is, and why her handbag contains a large amount of cash and a very odd-shaped key.
And lastly we have Adam, a movie director being "persuaded" to hire a particular actress for his film by two Italian gentlemen who may or may not be associated with the Cosa Nostra. When he throws a fit and refuses, he suddenly discovers his wife is being unfaithful and he has inexplicably become nearly destitute.
Some Twin Peaks' denizens return in Mulholland Drive, albeit with different names. And the main supporting characters are two taciturn cops played by Robert Forster and Brent Briscoe, in a manner so deadpan they make Kyle McLachlan's Agent Cooper look like he had St. Vitus' Dance. There's even a running coffee joke, although whether cherry pie makes an apeparnce isn't clear.
All in all, it's your basic David Lynch foray into a weird and unsettling world of his creation, much like Blue Velvet or Lost Highway, or the aforementioned Twin Peaks. If you revel in Lynch's unique style, you have likely been salivating like Pavlov's proverbial dog since this project was announced; come October of 2001, you'll get your chance to immerse yourself in another quirky Lynch universe, provided you live in either New York or Los Angeles. The film might make the art-house circuit if it's well-received in its initial run; it's difficult to say at this stage, and in fact, it likely won't be determined until some more word from audiences and critics begins to appear. Either way, Imagine Entertainment and Universal have an interesting product to market, and if it's done properly, this could become as much as cult favorite as Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. (Calvin Trager/BOP)