Mulholland Drive - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Mulholland Drive Reviews

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Super Reviewer
January 2, 2010
One of the most complex, seductive and brilliant journeys into the obscure underworld of the unconsciousness to be ever experienced, brought to us by the incredible mind of David Lynch, who takes us into this elaborate dreamscape that holds the key to an extremely sad reality.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
November 12, 2009
Having bewitched audiences with the likes of Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, David Lynch has once again shifted the goalposts of filmmaking as he enters the fourth decade of his career. Mulholland Drive is an astonishing, extraordinary piece of work, a mesmerising masterpiece and the jewel in Lynch's crown. It is a beautiful, hypnotic, twisted and strange film which draws the viewer inescapably into a unique and fascinating universe of crime, dreams, sex and tragedy. It is, quite simply, the best film of the decade.

As with much of Lynch's work, there is no simple way to describe what Mulholland Drive is about. Lynch himself has always been coy or hesitant to give meaning to his films, leading some to brand him as the Lars von Trier of surrealism. There is a possibility that his whole career is a prank, and behind those kinetic hands and immense head of hair, he is secretly laughing at us. There have been instances in Lynch's career where he has been self-indulgent or excessive, but he is genuine in everything he does, and Mulholland Drive is proof of it.

Hence when we come to identify the themes of the film, and attempt to unlock its symbols, we realise very early on just how many different interpretations there could be. In fact - to go all self-reflexive for a brief moment - writing about Mulholland Drive is emphatic proof of the subjective nature of film; what I write is what I understand to be true, but I must acknowledge even as I write these words that there are many other ways of seeing the same thing. Not since 2001: A Space Odyssey has a film sparked so much dispute and discussion over its meaning and implications, and my piece, however well-constructed or meticulous, cannot give you all the answers. That is the eternal appeal of Lynch, of all great filmmakers, and is one of the great joys of life.

The experience of watching Mulholland Drive echoes the experience of writing about it. It is one of a very rare breed of films which hold you in such a hypnotic state that your normal critical faculties become temporarily suspended. You slowly forget to pay very close attention to the mystery at the heart of the plot, because the sense of mystery is so all-pervading that it engulfs everything. You stop trying to unpick scenes to decipher what they might mean, because they are staged in such an eerie and beautiful way that you simply have to sit transfixed and let them wash over you.

This is not to say that the film doesn't want you to think - on the extreme contrary. Mulholland Drive is a hugely intelligent film, and every shot feeds you with information through its visuals, its dialogue or simply its sense of atmosphere. Angelo Badalamenti's unusual score sends shivers down your spine, and almost every conversation consists of broken dialogue; as in Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, there is a constant sense of threat and unease, with any reassurance feeling like the opposite. Because there is no natural flow from what one character is saying to the next, you find yourself moving at the pace of the film, waiting on every word they say in the knowledge that it will be significant.

Mulholland Drive is prominently about dreams, specifically the relationship between dreams and reality. There is no straightforward narrative which is easy to follow; to paraphrase Roger Ebert, in dreams the mind only focuses on what fascinates it at that instance in time. It makes no sense to impose something as abstract and heartless as logic onto such a surreal and subtly shifting landscape; to do this would only confuse us further. Instead we simply have to embrace the experience and see where it takes us - we have to dream as the film dreams.

The film has been described as a 'poisonous valentine to Hollywood', since it marries a fleeting celebration of Hollywood and acting to Lynch's continuing themes of darkness and horror lurking not far beneath a beautiful surface. Mulholland Drive takes his thesis of 'small towns with secrets' from Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, and expands it to an entire city; everyone is part of this world where simultaneously dreams are made and lives are nightmarishly torn apart.

One aspect of the plot is about creativity, self-belief and natural talent struggling against a system where power and connections are everything. The scenes involving Justin Theroux's director being intimidated by the mob are a sly allegory for Lynch's nightmarish experience on Dune. His character goes from defiance to sheepishness and reluctant acceptance; the Cowboy he encounters could either be his conscience or the personification of the system, winning by its old-fashioned combination of muscle and clever talk (or in this case, non sequiturs).

The film is also an examination of the nature of acting, in which characters or identities are created and inhabited for short, disconnected periods of time. This is an illuminating observation, and ties in with the overall theme of dreams and reality.

For the first two hours, we follow Betty Elms, played brilliantly by Naomi Watts. She is an aspiring actress who comes to Hollywood to seek her fortune. At the same time, a woman (Laura Elena Harring) has a car accident which makes her lose her memory; she wanders from the eponymous road through the streets of Hollywood, ending up at the house where Betty is staying. Betty befriends 'Rita' (who takes her name from a poster of Rita Hayworth), helps her find her identity, and the two become lovers.

In the final half-hour, once the blue box has been opened, we find that everything has changed. Watts' character, now called Diane, is a failed actress while Harring's character, now called Camilla, is about to marry a successful director (Theroux). Diane is immensely jealous of Camilla's success and hires someone to kill her. But once the deed is done, she is driven crazy by guilt, regret and a longing for affection, and ends up shooting herself.

The most generally accepted version of events - and the one to which I personally subscribe - is that the initial period is Diane's dream and the last half-hour is the bitter reality. Diane invents the characters of Betty and Rita to escape her grim reality, or re-experience the past. Betty is intelligent, resourceful, confident and destined to be a star - just look at her audition for the film, in which she seduces both us and the film crew. Rita by contrast is pathetic, frightened and vulnerable; she is the perfect means for Betty to satisfy her ego, and their scenes of lovemaking are essentially self-love.

But those who dream cannot dream forever, and many dreams end with cracks of reality begin to break through. In both the 'dream' and 'reality', Camilla Rhodes is the obstruction preventing Diane/ Betty from realising her ambitions: in the 'dream' she is cast in the role she wants (thanks to the will of the mob), and in the 'reality' she is her ex-lover who has grown weary of her charms. The colour blue is another symbol which demonstrates this: the blue box is a passageway between the dream world and the real world, and Betty begins to convulse when the blue lights flash around Club Silencio.

Diane's dream is the ultimate expression of her inability to accept that she is a failure, both professionally and personally. Like the lead character in Sunset Boulevard (which is referenced in the opening minutes) she falls from brief stardom and egomania to obscurity, self-loathing and destruction. She masturbates in a desperate attempt to recapture that sense of ecstatic affection she felt as a star. But soon the ghosts from her past drive her over the edge and she chooses death over another day in her personal hell.

Mulholland Drive is one of the most open-ended, ambiguous, mind-bending and mesmerising films you will ever see. Any attempt to address or summarise the issues it raises will only scratch the surface; there is too much going on in this powerfully hypnotic film to reduce down to pithy one-liners and short paragraphs. Multiple viewings are essential if one is to unlock every puzzle, and each viewing only improves the experience as more ideas come to light and new puzzles emerge to stimulate your mind. It is a truly extraordinary experience, with stunning performances, perfect direction and simply gorgeous visuals, all of which blend together effortlessly into what can only be described as a masterpiece.
Super Reviewer
December 27, 2006
An aspiring, fresh-faced young actress new in Hollywood discovers a woman in her appartment who is suffering from amnesia and they attempt to discover who she is using only a few slender clues. David Lynch once again delights and exasperates with this beautiful and always intriguing modern noir. It does not surprise me to discover that this was originally intended to be a TV show, as it reminded me a lot of Lynch's classic series Twin Peaks. It is not as baffling as much of Lynch's work, and although there are shades of Lost Highway in that suddenly the characters seem to become someone else, it does have a coherent narrative that explains all (if you were paying VERY close attention!) Lynch uses his trademark intensity of imagery and sound to create an otherwordly feeling, but it is not as sinister as some of his other work and so it's rather more accessible. In fact, the first two acts of the film do seem like just another post-Tarantino mystery thriller, but the finale of the film is quite astonishing. Another stylish and seductive headf*** from the master of the macabre.
Super Reviewer
December 15, 2012
While you watch it, the plot is not very difficult to follow, thanks to the surprising clarity in which the narrative is displayed. But hold on.... If you even try to put the pieces together and create an idea of what exactly happened, that's where Lynch's work gains its reputation for being bafflingly confusing, nonsensical, and feverishly brilliant.
paul o.
Super Reviewer
½ December 27, 2010
Naomi Watts was fantastic with David Lynch's abstract screenplay and directing. People may say inception was confusing, well Mulholland Drive will blow their minds!
Super Reviewer
March 30, 2006
One of the best films of 2001. A chilling dissection of hollywood, reminiscent of Sunset Bolevard and All About Eve.
Super Reviewer
August 4, 2010
Mulholland Drive is only confusing as a film because the plot is sustained in different forms of time. It possesses the genius direction of David Lynch (much debated) who forces the film to stay coherent in some respects, and strange in many others. No one is debating that Lynch has a flair, a contemporary feeling unmatched by others, but everyone is wondering what it all means, what we're supposed to take away from a film with no discernible plot, a strange set of characters who do things and feel things that make very little sense in the grand spectrum of life and reality, yet give this film an eerie dream logic. You can't watch this as a true neo-noir or a thriller in any sense. It's that, but without a denouement, or any true climax. The plot transitions between the story of an amnesiac who was going to be the victim of a homicide before being in a car accident, and stumbles across Betty, an aspiring actress who has just moved to Hollywood and lies around her aunt's apartment with stars in her eyes. At the same time we see a director get pushed around on his casting by some mob ties, and his wife cheat on him with the pool boy, lending to an unexpected cameo from Billy Ray Cyrus. Though these two events are supposedly linked, I see very little in the way of a constructed plot. We never find out why the amnesiac was going to be killed, there isn't much investigation into her actual set of events before the accident, and we're never sure if the last twenty minutes (where the real mindf***kery begins) is a dream sequence, a strange prologue that begins in the end, or the real set of events around the mysterious Diane but with different key players. Beside the way you feel about being made a fool of, it's the odd experience of the film that everyone either loves or hates. The reason Lynch has as many followers in cult film as Kubrick, the Coens, and Wes Anderson is because, like them, he has a form and function within his films while still being quirky, or having appropriate atmosphere. Lynch's films, and his work in television, always has a strange tone, a moody atmosphere that you can't place in real life but works well with these scenes, these anachronisms within time and space. I am not sure if I personally can get past the plot to look within the mood, because it unsettles me, and with not having a plot to cling to it's very difficult to have a certain opinion about a film without that knowledge, that qualification of good or bad. Mulholland Drive is good, but in a way that can't be explained, and in that lies the genius of Lynch. Besides that the cast was brilliant: Watts transformed seamlessly between different personas with ease, proving she truly is one of the best actresses working today. Harring looks confuzzled throughout while still retaining a blank sensuality, and Theroux is aimless and intractable. The best sense of humor in the film is a short scene with Mark Pellegrino as a bumbling convict, which lends to the narrative and the sense of danger, but is also appropriately funny. I found this film delightful in some senses and unsettling in so many others. No matter what, it's a film worth watching.
Super Reviewer
March 3, 2012
David Lynch's masterpiece, frightening and funny, it's quite scary to look at Hollywood through the eyes of Lynch.
Super Reviewer
½ December 12, 2007
A naive would-be actress from Ontario meets and falls for a knockout amnesiac; impenetrable dream sequences and reality shifts follow. Beautiful confusion.
Super Reviewer
½ October 29, 2011
One of my all time favorites. Llorando.
Super Reviewer
July 2, 2006
For me, David Lynch is a lot like Stanley Kubrick: both are important, talented directed with high amounts of creativity and strong senses of personal style and vision, why is why descriptive terms such as "Lynchian" or "Kubrickian" exist The greatest strength for each is also their greatest weakness, and this happens to be their Lynchian or Kubrickian-ness. Both do some incredible or fascinating work, and I always have respect for them/their works, even if (mostly/especially) in the case of Lynch, I don't always knwo what the hell to think or if he's truly great or just full of crap or not. In a way, that's kind of the fun of watching his movies...a very maddening, unique kind of fun.

I think I will choose Kubrick more for this reason, but no matter how nuts Lynch's films drive me, I'm always willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because there's always at least one thing going on inhis films that I like, or because we need someone like him, because we need films like his. I don't think I could truly hate a Lynch movie, which is why if you look and see what ratings I've given to his movies, you'll notice I always give them at least a mild pass.

The film can kinda be summed up as a neo-noir mystery thriller, but there's more to it than that. There's some self aware elements and jokes, and I got the idea that this was a satire to an extent of Hollywood and the creative porcess. A main storyline is that of an aspiring axtress helping an amnesiac woman try to find out her identity after a car crash, a crash which it turns out saved her from being murdered. A director character is getting hampered by all sorts of forces, namely shady mob types, and all of this ties into the amnesia story. Truth is, I don't truly know if I know what's going on. All I'm saying is just bits of what I've read others say, as well as some of my own observations. Honestly though, I don't know if I really want to know the truth behind this movie or what the hell really is going on.

No one will ever say that Lynch's films don't have a great sense of mood, tone, and atmosphere, one that's almost always unnevering and distressing to boot. That's kinda why this film works. It has a dark, mysterious charm to it, and it seems like it would not be as effective if a definite answer were reached. It's like the old saying about how the journey is more important than the destination. Don't watch this movie for plot so much as for the experience of just siting through what it has to offer.

I will say that, especially during the first half, the acting and dialogue bothered me. I'm not sure if it was intentional, but it all came off as really bad, stilted, and wooden. It got better, though. Maybe it'll not seem that way on repeated viewings? I do think the performers, especially Watts, had a tough job to do here, and they do pull it off. For me though, the real fun was seeing Billy Ray Cyrus show up briefly as a pool poy and Mark Pellegrino play a wonderfully inept and bungling hit man. There's plenty of subtle humor going on, but these two definitely bring on the more overt (and needed) humor.

If you're new to Lynch, I'm not sure if this is a good place to start, but if you want a wild, surreal, and wonderfully artistic head trip to sit through, do give this one a chance.
Super Reviewer
March 16, 2009
I like to think of myself as an intelligent person, so it was a little embarrassing to admit that I didn't "get" this movie. A few hours of research later, I could understand it, and really comprehend the greatness of this dark thriller.

Mulholland Drive feels like a dream (or nightmare?) and deserves a second viewing on my part. I will get to that when I have the time but, right now, I just want to praise David Lynch for taking risks, and making a weird, but incredibly appealing and memorable movie; Naomi Watts for her perfect portrayal of Betty/Diane, definitely the best performance of her career, and Rebekah del Rio for that amazing, unforgettable, gorgeous, creepy, mind-fuck scene!

* Will definitely update after second viewing.
Super Reviewer
November 16, 2009
Some of David Lynch's best work, but then again you can say that about pretty much everything he's done. The last thirty minutes or so is just flawless, it makes me wish that the rest of the film would've been able to be shot like that. However, it would ruin the whole development of the characters, plot and message. The majority of the movie's style is a great parody of melodrama and is very dreamlike in nature *hint, hint*. Naomi Watts was great as usual and Justin Theroux gave a truly bizarre yet amazing performance. I don't think a movie has made so many changes and twists. The mystery aspect is one of my favorites since Blue Velvet. There's so many moments that don't fit and make no sense, but then again they do.
Super Reviewer
October 7, 2008
i still dont know what the hell its about completely, but ill see anything Lynch makes now... Oh one more thing: why the hell is billy ray "mullet" cyrus the 2nd name in the cast?!?!
Super Reviewer
December 11, 2010
First time I saw this I was so confused. I was trying to understand and look at all the various levels and techniques used to put across the story however I did miss a lot. I had to check on imdb what on earth was going on but once I did I mostly understood what was going on. It's a very clever film.
Super Reviewer
½ October 13, 2010
I hate David Lynch, but I really like "Mulholland Dr." I think it's a good collaboration between the satire and mystery of "Blue Velvet" and the nonsensical visuals from "Inland Empire". I also like that "Mulholland Dr." isn't as straightforward as "Blue Velvet" but no where near incomprehensible as "Inland Empire". "Mulholland Dr." also features some nice visuals (something always present in Lynch's pictures), a story that keeps your attention (something rare for Lynch), and effective performances that are equally wacky and emotional (something Lynch never seems to nail down in one film, which I like here). Overall, it's clearly his best and most interesting work, and that is saying something, coming from me.
Super Reviewer
½ March 3, 2008

An aspiring actress from out of town (Naomi Watts), a film director suffering from a series of bad luck (Justin Theroux), and a mysterious woman with a purse full of money, amnesia from an accident, and people searching for her (Laura Elena Harring), all intersect in Los Angeles. But something seem odd. Off. Strange. What's going on, and how are these people connected?

Naomi Watts is my favorite actress, so there's absolutely no excuse for it to have taken so long for me to see this movie. Especially considering how fantastic Mulholland Drive is, and how great she is in it. From the very beginning, you have no idea what's going on. Strange things occur, and you're left wondering what in the heck is happening and who these people are. But the ambiguity never becomes frustrating. It only serves to make you more and more eager to continue on and see what everything is leading to. I literally said out loud at least three times, "I have no idea what's going on, but this is awesome." It's been a while since a movie has caught my attention so strongly from the very beginning and held it to the very end.

Despite my adoration for Mulholland Drive, I'm vaguely aware of the fact that some people might find this movie "too weird". As I mentioned before, you're given a lot of scenes without the initial context to make sense of them, and I know that can annoy some people. The film is also quite surreal, at times, and while I may have found that scenes like those at the corral and Club Silencio (and really the entire last half-hour) to be incredible, I can (sort of) understand that they may be just flat out odd to some folks. So be warned, this movie is DIFFERENT. And yes, the all-caps really is necessary. If you only like your movies literal and straight-forward, do yourself a favor and choose a different movie.

I don't hand out ratings this high very often, but Mulholland Drive leaves me no choice. It's was so unexpectedly and unconventionally amazing (especially if it's your first David Lynch film, as it was for me), that I have no doubts that it's one of the best movies I've ever seen. It's startling, mesmerizing, and it'll bend your mind so far that it may never snap back to its original shape. I've seen nothing else like it. I'll admit that I can't help but wonder what the story would have been like without the hard left turn 2/3's of the way through (otherwise you'd be looking at a perfect rating), but this movie is a gem.
Super Reviewer
½ August 1, 2009
The question is not, "Is Betty real or is Diane real?" The question is "Why does my mind feel like it's been raped and WHAT THE F**K JUST HAPPENED!?!?!?!" Full review when I come of my confusion coma.
Super Reviewer
½ May 5, 2010
What can I say? If you have seen a David Lynch movie you know how I am feeling right now. You sit in awe, and confusion, but you know that you are in the midst of something profound. Naomi Watts gives one of the best performances I have seen in recent memory. Showing the dark side of California's Metropolis, Lynch brilliantly takes you through Watt's hallucinogenic mind-scape. You can write this off as pretentious art, but I feel Lynch pulls off a complex and powerful dream like sequence for the full 2 and 1/2 hours without feeling like it is merely art for arts sake. Watch it, call me, you will need to talk to someone.
Super Reviewer
November 29, 2007
the best fun i could gain from watching any of david lynch's movies is its freudian decoding upon suppressed desires transmuting into the groove of disguising dreams. lynch's movies do offend the viewers in a way because the director seems to be unbashfully flashing off his superior brilliance all the time as if it is you whose wits cannot emulate his. unlike alfred hitchcock, who is also a cinematic freudian illustrator, lynch would never condescend himself like hitchock to explain the plots within the movie like hitchock did with "psycho" as the shrink crystallizes exactly how's happened with norman bates in the end of the movie. has it ever occured to you that hitchcock might think the audience is too slow and ignorant (in a word, STUPID) to understand freud so he needs some extra guidance there to keep the audience on the clue? or just prevent them from aggravation??? but with lynch, such consideration is in exclusion. personally i found the shrink episode in psycho was a bit too mouthful but on the other hand, i may not understand psycho if there wasn't a shrink episode since i was only 15 when i watched it for the first time...

okay, the reality of mulholland drive would be an oscure starlet hooked with a bisexual mega star in hollywood, and the mega star deserts the starlet for a powerful male director and another new starlet for her wild lesbian the heartbroken starlet slumbers her way for three weeks picturing some soothing fantasies to ease off harsh truth of her life: in her dreamworld, she's the sunny supernova-to-be called betty, who encounters a mysterious female stranger who names herself rita after the poster of rita hayworth's gilda (who also resembles the mega star). somehow betty's acting career is blossoming and rita's enigmatic helplessness sorta entinces her sense of rita gratefully returns betty's chivalry with a steamy lesbian sex despite rita never responds betty's love when she utters "i fall in love with you" (just like the femme fatale would always neglect the sap's lovemaking meanwhile manipulating the sap)...her rival, the male director, becomes a pathetic wimp who gets beaten up and humiliated by his wife's cuckold. the mega star's new girl flame takes the mega star's identity so she could be left alone with her beloved in a detached dimension for their intimate liaisons. in her illusionary universe, her lover's identity turns into an obliterated re-embodiment of sheer seduction just like rita hayworth in gilda, the goddess of love and nothing more, and later on rita wears the blonde wig just like betty, that is the wishful autoeroticism which constantly appears in homosexuality. (wouldn't it be even more provocative to make love with your semi-colone for some change of sceneries?) within her dreams, rita is at her disposal as she could request her to come toward her bed naked and re-mould her hairstyle, but in the same time she stays under control of everything with rita...but due to the sense of self-loathe, the protagonist's identity is also sealed around some corner where a dead woman named diane rotting in her reclusive bungalow, and she innovates the name "betty" from a waitress' name-tag in some cafeteria. and the senile couple who greets her entrance into hollywood transform into fiendish demons whose malicious laughters drive the protagonist into suicide in the end of the movie. generally, the movie shifts into the sequence of reality after the blonde rita opens the blue box with a hidden key inside her purse. blatant metaphor for the pandera's box, huh?

simply put , the real diane is decaying into a stinky walking-dead while diane's dream-self betty is rollercoasting her hollywood dream with the ravishing "rita"...the protagonist wishes to shed off the bitterness and pain within the character diane so she imagines herself as the brightful betty for some escapic fun in the last few hours of her life before she blows off her head in oblivion like kurt cobain. perhaps in a way, "mulholland drive" is lesbianistically masturbatory just like a man who envisions some grand bombshell who's willingly obedient to gratify his pride and libido in life as well as in bed for some rapturuous fun of consolatory ejection. (am i being obscene? haha).. just like lynch's 1997 "lost highway", he tackles into the psyche of the betrayed, the cuckolded, and their compensatory fantasies to redeem the last slice of their remaining self-esteem which has been devastated and smeared off by the contemptuosuly insouciant femme fatale.

(ps) the formuli of the labyrinth of lynchian noir would be: 1. the protagonist obliterates his own identify for self-loathe (the man in lost highway gets sentenced into electric chair to be re-born) 2. the vertigo dichotomy: the woman must change her identity for the protagonist to re-liven his obsession again, the chaning of hair color is a frequent case. 3. the woman is benevolent by fancy but malevolent by reality (typical case, the man tragically falls into love with a beautiful woman who doesn't love him) 4. hommage to the 50s symbols like the swinger sequence in the beginning of mulholland drive. 5. the protagonist resorts to self-destruction after awakening from a slumbering dream.

basically, the archetype of stories is not hard and actually quite routined. it's the labyrinth of mixed distinction of reality and dream savors up everything and some cinematographic virtuosity dubs the scenes with a highly artistic tasteful look.
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