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‘Under The Silver Lake’ (DVD review)

Lionsgate / Released 6/18/29

Oddball, uneven, but quite enjoyable film noir riff from writer/director David Robert Mitchell, whose feature debut was the horror indie darling, It Follows.

In his sophomore effort, Mitchell (perfectly) cast Andrew Garfield as the slacker Sam Spade, a true ne’er-do-well who shrugs off his landlord’s multiple attempts to collect his back rent, indicative of his overall behavior and sense of entitlement.

While the film is certainly critical of his attitude, Garfield is not wholly unlikable, even as he embarks on a misguided quest to find his lovely neighbor (Riley Keough) when she goes missing.

They merely share one evening together watching a movie at her apartment, yet when she disappears under mildly mysterious circumstances, Garfield seizes upon this like a man on a mission.

His investigation leads him to meetings with many quirky individuals (my favorite being a songwriter who has a terrific, fascinating monologue) and genuinely wacky adventures (this is likely the first film with a suspense sequence involving a paddle boat chase).

At times, the film has an appealingly smart and nutty odyssey feel, á la Donnie Darko.

And like Darko, there are indeed some missteps and annoying moments (there’s a flat-out dumb moment near the opening involving an apparently suicidal squirrel, for one example).

But these missteps aren’t remotely fatal or even very detrimental to the enjoyment of the film.
Obviously inspired by The Long Goodbye  – and likely The Big Lebowski  and Inherent Vice  – Silver Lake has excellent location work and a wonderful Los Angeles feel, especially in its titular ‘hood.

I’ve lived in LA for over a decade and this captures the city superbly and, at times, hilariously.
The technical aspects are also noteworthy, with evocative cinematography by Mike Gioulakis and a wonderful, at-times very Bernard Herrmann-esque score by Disasterpeace.

I was somewhat surprised by the lukewarm response to Silver Lake, as people fell all over themselves praising It Follows to high heaven. Many folks especially disliked the ending.

I’m sure it has at least something to do with expectations as, after hearing people fawn over It Follows for months before I finally caught up with it, I was extremely disappointed with Mitchell’s debut. Despite a few great moments, it didn’t work at all for me, and I honestly thought the climax was risible.

So, going into Silver Lake with lowered expectations helped, I’m sure. But even while I was enjoying it, I feared Mitchell and co. might blow it in the home stretch.

No spoilers, but I quite liked the revelations and answers (and lack thereof, in some cases) that Garfield unravels. Eerie, funny and somewhat melancholy all at once – as well as being very L.A.

Extras include two brief featurettes.

Under The Silver Lake is a rambling, long, ambitious and unruly beast, and I recommend it highly.

 

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