This week I revisited a couple of films via Netflix Streaming, which is officially more addictive than cocaine, heroin and pornography combined.
Mulholland Drive - I first watched David Lynch's 'mystery-thriller' in the theater when I was living in New York. When you live in New York, you go to David Lynch movies. When you live in West Lafayette Indiana, you get Paul Blart. Well, I admit Mr. Lynch left me scratching my head that day. He set up a mystery and left me hanging in a worldful of weird. In the middle was a gratuitous lesbian scene which stuck to the annoying movie habit of portraying lesbian sex as a male fantasy of kissing and breast fondling. Maybe us straight dudes like to imagine that's what it's all about, but I'm pretty sure it ain't.
Ostensibly, Mulholland Drive treats of an aspiring young actress, Betty (Naomi Watts), helping a mysterious amnesiac, 'Rita' (Laura Elena Harring) find her true identity. In Rita's possession is a blue key. What does it open? That's what we're waiting to find out. In the meantime, a young director's film is commandeered by mafia types who demand he cast the actress of their choice in his new film. What does this apparently tangential storyline have to do with anything? I'm not sure.
Anyway, the sex scene is still pretty annoying, but I've come to terms with it; I've come to terms with everything that bothered me before. After all, Lynch is simultaneously mocking and paying homage to an institution, Hollywood, that is both sinister (watch the menacing midnight Cowboy give instructions to the director), addicted to cliche (sex scene) and full of wonder (in a nod to the art of acting, see an auditioning Betty morph from a naive wannabe to a piping hot seductress). As for the story, I say: what story? I can't be frustrated by Lynch not wrapping it all up in nice little package, because, well, that's the point, isn't it? Once a blue box is found that matches the key, the whole narrative is thrown, Pandora like, into chaos.
The delight of Mulholland Drive is watching scenes that have only an oblique relationship to each other. Nearly every character has a double role, from our heroines to the director to the scariest pair of geriatrics you'll ever encounter. We want it all to fit, and it drives us crazy when it doesn't. I give Lynch a lot of credit for upending things. Official McBone Rating: 4.5 McBones
The Sixth Sense - I have a guilty confession. I like M. Night Shyamalan movies. Except for that pretty goddam awful The Happening, and Lady in the Water, which I didn't see, I've at least enjoyed most of his works. I do believe that by insisting on a twist ending in every single film he has painted himself in a corner and created a sort diminishing returns situation for himself, but, in a world of endless remakes and sequels and prequels, I have real respect for a guy who writes and directs his own material.
Now, talk about diametric opposites. As much as Mulholland Drive refuses to play by the rules, the Sixth Sense comes together all nice and tidy for us in the end. That's not a criticism, just a note on style.
So we've all seen this one, right? We all know what it's about. A disturbed kid sees dead people. Bruce Willis, child psychologist, wants to help him, but how? How does he succeed where he failed in similar cases in the past? Well, Bruce, how do you ever solve any problem in any movie where a kid plays a huge role? Duh! You believe the kid! That's a pretty strict rule of film. Movie kids are way, way wiser than movie adults, who have roughly 2 hours to figure that out.
Anyhow, the movie is well made. There are holes, but they've already been exposed ad nauseum, and I don't think they take away from the film in the least. What I want to talk about is how goddam good Toni Collette is in her role as the kid's mom. She's not just good; she basically up and steals the whole thing. Bruce Willis, playing the shrink in question, is who he is; he gets the job done. His wife, Olivia Williams, is stuck wrestling with an American accent. Usually kid actors are insufferable, but Haley Joel Osment does competent work. Then there's Toni Collette. Forget for a second the ghosts and the riddles. If anyone has ever played a single mom better than she does here, I haven't seen it. Now, let me tell you what: nothing is worse than when a script calls for an actor to talk in their sleep. It's unfailingly awful and should be banned forever as a narrative device. Toni Collette is asked to do so, and somehow manages to not embarrass herself. In her best scene, a scene that sets her up to either fail crashingly or excel, she gets to break down crying when she learns that her son has been talking to her dead grandmother. She nails it. Perfecto! 4.0 McBones