Review by Julie Carpenter
Once again, I’m late to the party. I really meant to watch this movie last year. You know, when it came out. But me and movies don’t work that way. I have to slowly sneak up on them or vice versa. I was finally watched it. If it had been underwhelming or super popular, I wouldn’t be bothering you with it. However, I’ve looked at the numbers and the reviews and I’ve realized that not nearly enough of you guys have watched this thing, or if you did, not enough of you appreciated it.
Under the Silver Lake, directed by David Robert Mitchell and starring Andrew Garfield and Riley Keough, is a weird, comic, slightly nihilistic film noir that’s a sprawling mess…and I love it. The movie follows a strange, sort-of-likable-if-you-don’t-have-to-deal-with-him goofball named Sam who has only a few days to pay his rent or face eviction. He sees a beautiful young woman named Sarah swimming in the apartment complex pool, spends an evening with her during which they really get along. He agrees to meet her the next day, but the next day she is gone, her apartment cleared out.
The main action of the movie is Sam searching LA for Sarah. This movie feels like a carnival rendition of a Hitchcock movie, and in one of the best scenes our hero follows some suspicious women using a paddle boat. As he chases down information, he discovers that the disappearance of his mysterious and nontraditional femme fatale may be linked to murder.
This is all I can tell you about the plot for two reasons. One…spoilers. Two…it’s too frickin’ weird. Here’s what I can say, this is a movie for this uncanny moment on our timeline. It’s about the machinations and vacuous indifference of the rich and powerful, it toys with the idea that pop culture often acts as an opiate to prevent us from noticing that fact, and it lays out a puzzle that can’t exactly be solved.
In a film noir trope taken to a level that’s so absurd it must be true in Trump’s America, Sam looks for patterns where others can’t see them. He looks for connections everywhere from game shows, to pop music, to the backs of cereal boxes. He learns with exquisite clarity that there are things happening behind the curtain, but that the complexity of the message may not have any bearing on its worth, and it's not clear what can be done to head off catastrophe. There are non sequiturs and dead ends that never get wrapped up. There are whole plot points that lead to other plot points and then sit quietly in a corner never to be mentioned again. There is a conspiracy by the rich that leads to the abuse of the media for purposes so pointless that the billionaires who do it come off as less as villains than as vaguely malicious clowns, creating grueling and complicated schemes on top of schemes with payoffs the average person would disdain.
In other words, welcome to the extended metaphor of what it is to be alive right now. If you like a movie that wraps things up in a nice neat package and makes you feel that everything will be ok, this is not the movie for you. But if you wanna have a weirdly good time possibly going nowhere…check this thing out.