A young starlet moves to Hollywood to pursue her acting dreams and a hot-shot young director sets out to cast an exciting new 50's-60's period piece. But both get caught in a dark undercurrent swirling just below the town's surface, and try to find their way through it alive. David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. (2001) perfectly captures the awe and wonder of first moving to Hollywood and the disillusionment that follows soon after. As Naomi Watts's Betty declares early in the film: "I mean I just came here from Deep River, Ontario, and now I'm in this dream place." Unfortunately, Betty's dream soon turns into an all-too-real nightmare.
Mulholland Dr. (2001) Official Trailer
Many interesting and powerful films center around the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of the film industry, including one of David Lynch's personal favorites: Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd. (1950). But in recent decades, it is difficult to think of another film that captures the dark side of Hollywood's underbelly in such a tangible and entertaining way as Lynch's Mulholland Dr. (2001).
|Pictured: Lara Elena Harring, David Lynch, and Naomi Watts|
Lynch Wins Best Director at Cannes
|Naomi Watts Receives David Lynch's Direction for Mulholland Dr. (2001)|
|David Lynch Won Best Director at Cannes for Mulholland Dr. (2001)|
|David Lynch Directing The Elephant Man (1980)|
THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980)1. Best Picture
2. Best Director
|David Lynch Directing Dune (1984)|
DUNE (1983)1. Best Sound
|David Lynch Directing Blue Velvet (1986)|
BLUE VELVET (1986)1. Best Director
|David Lynch Directing Wild at Heart (1990)|
WILD AT HEART (1990)1. Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Diane Ladd)
|David Lynch Directing The Straight Story (1999)|
THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999)1. Best Actor in a Leading Role (Richard Farnsworth)
|David Lynch Directing Mulholland Dr. (2001)|
MULHOLLAND DR. (2001)1. Best Director
|Mulholland Dr. (2001) was More or Less Overlooked Upon its Initial Release,|
But Now Tops Most Critics' Lists as the Best Film of the Decade
AND NOW I'M IN THIS DREAM PLACE
|The Film Begins with the Jitterbug Contest in Canada|
|Naomi Watts's Character Wins and with the Help of Her Aunt, Moves to Hollywood|
|David Lynch Then Opens on a Point-of-View Shot of Someone Going to Bed and Falling Asleep|
|Pictured: A Pillow? Or a Gateway to a Dream Place? You Decide...|
|You After Multiple Viewings: "Oh, that makes much more sense now..."|
|Memento (2000) is the Story of a Grieving Man Seeking Revenge, Shown Out of Sequence; Mulholland Dr. (2001) is an Extended Dream Sequence of a Grieving Woman Who Got Revenge, Concluded with an Explanation for the Dream|
|The Black and White Scenes at the Beginning and End Take Place in Kansas (Real Life)|
The Technicolor Scenes in the Middle Take Place in Oz (Dream Life)
|The Middle Part of the Film Features Diane as a Great Actress Turned Heroine of|
Her Very Own Film Noir Adventure Taking Place in Hollywood (Dream Life)
|The Jitterbug Contest, Followed by Falling Asleep, and Then the Last 45 Minutes are|
Real Life in Hollywood Mixed with Some Lynchian Expressionistic Hallucinations
|Dorothy: "Hmm, if only I had a dream world to work out a catharsis..."|
|Lara Elena Harring Plays a Voluptuous Brunette Who is Targeted by Assassins|
On the Way to Mulholland Dr. Part 1
On the Way to Mulholland Dr. Part 2
On the Way to Mulholland Dr. Part 3
David Lynch offers a stylized version of Los Angeles that seems brighter and larger than life. At the airport Betty notices her baggage missing after being distracted by her conversation with the kindly old woman. She worries for a moment before realizing a bright and chipper taxi driver has already loaded her bags in his cab, ready to help her get where she needs to go. If this is not evidence of a dream sequence, then what is? Whatever the case, this stylized dream version of L.A. is fun and contrasts sharply with the stark reality as Betty progresses deeper and deeper into Hollywood.
Betty goes to her Aunt's apartment where she is is greeted by a lovely elderly woman named Coco. Coco is played by the late great Hollywood classic actress Anne Miller in her final feature film performance. Coco gives Betty a little tour of the apartment complex and hands Betty the keys to her aunt's apartment. Betty is later surprised to discover the amnesiac woman taking a shower. Through a misunderstanding, Betty believes the amnesiac is a friend of her Aunt Ruth's and that her aunt simply forgot to mention the woman would be staying there, too. Once Betty later learns the truth, she will decide to protect the amnesiac woman from her pursuers and help uncover her true identity.
But these men are dead serious as they slide a photograph across the table and declaratively state: "This is the girl." The photo is of an actress named Camilla Rhodes, played by the beautiful Melissa George. In no uncertain terms, the men tell Adam Kesher to cast her as his lead in his new film. Adam refuses to cast their actress in his film, remarking that six of the top actresses are vying for the part. As Adam resists the pressure to cave in, one of the men remarks: "Then it's no longer your film." At first Adam simply feels insulted and retaliates by attacking their limousine with a golf club.
Then we briefly cut to our favorite dwarf Michael Anderson, who played the red-suited dwarf in the Red Room in Twin Peaks (1990-91). The dwarf is shown repeatedly throughout this film as an intermediary between different levels and cells of organized crime throughout the Los Angeles area. We saw him earlier in the film organizing the manhunt for the amnesiac woman after she escaped the assassination attempt in the opening credit scene. Now the dwarf orders Adam Kesher to be removed from the directing chair if he continues to refuse to cast Camilla Rhodes as his lead actress.
Next we jump over to a conversation between two men. Among other things, they discuss the involvement of one of them in the car crash on Mulholland Dr. last night. Things seem friendly between them until one pulls out a silenced handgun and kills the other man. As he attempts to set up the crime scene to look like a suicide, a series of unfortunate events and a comedy of errors proceeds as the hitman tries to cover his tracks. Although grim, this scene is one of the funniest in all of Lynch's body of work and skillfully demonstrates his uniquely dark sense of humor.
When Betty asks for a name before discovering the woman is an amnesiac, the amnesiac sees a poster of Gilda (1946) starring Rita Hayworth, an actress with no small resemblance to her. She quickly decides to call herself Rita, which is the name she goes by throughout the rest of the dream sequence. Betty and Rita look through Rita's purse to look for clues about her identity only to discover a large pile of cash and a mysterious blue key.
The film then jumps back to the hitman from earlier, who is played by the great character actor Mark Pellegrino. You might remember Pellegrino as the mysterious but kind-hearted island benefactor Jacob in the hit TV series LOST (2004-10) [click here for our review LOST: The Complete Series]. Or you could remember him as as the sleazy ex-con ex-husband of Rita in Showtime's popular multi-layered drama Dexter (2006-Present). He's a fantastic actor who until Mulholland was rarely placed in prominent roles in major roles. But his performance as the darkly comedic, at times even bumbling, assassin is a classic supporting performance that rightfully earned him better recognition.
The hitman seeks the whereabouts of Rita, so he scours the streets of Hollywood and keeps tabs with his underworld contacts. So far his prostitute friends have not encountered any new, injured girls on the street. Meanwhile, Rita and Betty continue their investigation into Rita's past. Rita has a fleeting impression that she was heading to Mulholland Dr. the night before. Betty decides to check with the police about any car accidents taking place there last night, but wisely makes the call from a public phone since the police are probably looking for Rita and could compromise her safety.
David Lynch Interview
As Adam Kesher returns home, he discovers his wife sleeping with the pool cleaner. The pool cleaner is played by none other than Billy Ray Cyrus (yes, Miley's father) in a surprisingly funny performance. Adam is angry and he tries to retaliate by destroying his wife's jewelry by dousing it in pink paint, but his wife attacks Adam to stop him. When Adam fights back, Billy Ray intervenes and easily wins the fight. Adam is kicked out of his own house and retreats to a cheap hotel downtown.
Betty enacts her intelligence-gathering plan at a public phone at the same Winkie's from the earlier scene where the two men had discussed the strange dream earlier. We get the impression that Betty and Rita are nearing something dark and foreboding, yet we cannot place our finger on what it is exactly. But as they drink some coffee and read the newspaper after making a call to the police, Rita remembers a name triggered when she sees the waitress's nametag: Diane. Diane Selwyn.
Adam is told that he can cast any other part of his film in any way he pleases. But the lead actress role is nonnegotiable. If Adam fails to cast Camilla Rhodes, unfortunate consequences will follow. Adam understands, but laughs inside himself at the absurdity of this bizarrely dangerous situation.
King Kong (2005) and David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises (2007). And honestly, we are unaware of a more captivating screen presence than Ms. Watts. Her performance in Mulholland Dr. is perhaps the greatest performance ever captured on film.
The Making of Mulholland Dr. - Part I
The Making of Mulholland Dr. - Part II
Although we are unsure of the authenticity of this information, IMDB's trivia page for Mulholland Dr. has an interesting story that should be of interest for Twin Peaks fans: "David Lynch first came up with the idea for the story [for the TV series Mulholland Dr.] in the early 1990s, when his television show 'Twin Peaks' (1990) was still on the air. Had the show continued for a third season, Lynch would have entered into talks with ABC to spin-off the character of Audrey Horne, who would have survived being trapped inside the exploding building in the Season 2 cliffhanger. The character(s) that Naomi Watts plays was originally intended to be Audrey. David Lynch has never revealed if Audrey would have had the same fate as Naomi Watts' character(s) in the film."
|Roger Ebert: ""|
Rebekah Del Rio's Performance
David Lynch clearly channels the Road House and Red Room from Twin Peaks in the Club Silencio scene, yet somehow grounds it in an entirely unique Mulhollandian context. Lynch creates an audio-visual landscape that does not feel like a recycling of those past sequences, but as if the foundational idea has finally come into maturity. And rather than these oblique spoken words and musical interlude interfering with the film's pace and flow, Lynch intensifies it with this scene. He makes us sit on the edge of our seats as the story culminates on an intuitive level that cannot be described in words, but is hard to mistake when you are actually watching the film.
As Naomi Watts "returns to Kansas," the symbolism of her dream's imagery comes clearly into focus. The horror of Diane's existence is revealed. She is now a corrupted shell of her former self. Diane was drawn to acting, but like so many others, she does not succeed. Her unrequited love becomes twisted with jealousy and lust until she snaps and does an unimaginably spiteful deed toward the former object of her affection. Diane is pulled down into a horrible personal hell from which she cannot escape except briefly in dreams.
The source of Diane's alternating theme of identity in her dream becomes clear as we transition into real life where she commissions the murder of her former lover. This is the heart of the dark face lurking around the corner of Winkie's. This is the source of her overriding sense of guilt. But Diane desperately desires the simpler time when she was still a good person, when she first arrived at Hollywood, and her need for wish fulfillment creates a delusional dream where the assassination attempt fails. Diane becomes the protector, rather than the victimizer of her former lover. But Diane awakes from the dream and is forced to confront the reality that she is the evil conspiracy that she was running away from in her dream. She has seen the face of the enemy, and it is herself. And the guilt is more than she can bear.
But regardless of how we understand Mulholland Dr., watch the film and interpret the story for yourself. As Roger Ebert mentions in his review, David Lynch's films are best understood on an emotional level, like listening to music. Trying to force Mulholland Dr. into a strict interpretation is not the intention of this article. We partly wrote this article to rebut those who claim the film does not make sense. Lynch certainly delivers the story on an intuitive level foremost, but the logic is there if you are patient enough to recognize the pattern. But the only way to understand the film is to experience it for yourself. So let go of your preconceived notions of what to expect and just dive into it. You are in the hands of a master filmmaker at the top of his form.
David Lynch Audio Interview - Part II
David Lynch Audio Interview - Part III
Fan-Made Extended Trailer
Inland Empire (2006) Trailer
THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999)
INLAND EMPIRE (2006)
Note: Any purchase made via our web store, or through the product links scattered throughout the article, will contribute a small portion to the running of this site and the payment of this article's author. Thank you for your support.