Inland Empire

2006

Inland Empire

Critics Consensus

Typical David Lynch fare: fans of the director will find Inland Empire seductive and deep. All others will consider the heady surrealism impenetrable and pointless.

72%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 107

75%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 45,785
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Movie Info

A blonde actress is preparing for her biggest role yet, but when she finds herself falling for her co-star, she realizes that her life is beginning to mimic the fictional film that they're shooting. Adding to her confusion is the revelation that the film is a remake of a doomed Polish production, "47," which was never finished due to an unspeakable tragedy. And, that's only the beginning. Soon, a seemingly endless onslaught of indescribably bizarre situations flashes across the screen: a sitcom featuring humans in bunny suits, a parallel story set in a wintry Poland, a houseful of dancing streetwalkers, screwdrivers in stomachs, menacing Polish carnies, and much, much more.

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Critic Reviews for Inland Empire

All Critics (107) | Top Critics (34)

Audience Reviews for Inland Empire

  • Jun 06, 2017
    "A dream of dark and troubling things" is how Lynch himself described his directorial debut Eraserhead in 1977. It's fitting them that his first and (so far) last film share similarities with this description. In fact, this is probably the most coherent thing you can take from INLAND EMPIRE (Lynch insists the title is capitalised). Even the marketing executives had no idea how to promote the film and, in the end, decided to punt it with the most basic of taglines: A woman in trouble. The rest is basically up the individual viewer. But make no mistake, INLAND EMPIRE lands you squarely in Lynchland. Plot: After taking the lead in a new movie "On High in Blue Tomorrow's", Hollywood star Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) learns the script was actually filmed once before as a Polish film named "47". Her director (Jeremy Irons) informs her that the film may have been cursed as it was based on an old Gypsy folktale and led to the murder of its previous actors. Believing this to be true, Nikki's imagination takes over as she struggles with her own identity and unable to tell the difference between her new role and reality. Known for his inventiveness and wicked sense of humour, there was a time, in Lynch's career that he adopted a particular approach to his storytelling that involved surrealism and dream logic. These approaches initially featured sparingly but they arguably became more prominent with Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me or, to a greater extent, Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive with particular attention to symbolism and metamorphosis. INLAND EMPIRE has much in common with the latter two and as difficult and perplexing as these films were, they still had answers to be found within - with some effort, their puzzles could be solved. INLAND EMPIRE, on the other hand, is a very different beast and probably the most challenging film in Lynch's oeuvre. I have to put my hands up and admit defeat. I couldn't entirely grasp what Lynch was going for here. I have ideas but eventually I had to make peace with the film and just go along with the mystery and the confusion and revel in Lynch's mastery at mood and composition. At 3 hours long it's quite the commitment and demands the utmost concentration. This is an unforgiving film experience that will not accept anything less than a viewers full commitment and if you're not up for that, then forget it. I'd also add that this is a film that's strictly for Lynch enthusiasts. Naysayers and doubters need not apply. Lynch's decision to shoot in low-grade digital video may put many viewers off and it has often been said that the film isn't aesthetically pleasing. It can often look grainy and out of focus but, personally, I thought his intention here was a masterstroke. It allows him to utilise his low-lighting mood and gives the film a more personal vibe with the events and characters feeling much more authentic. So much so, that it only adds to what is already a deeply disturbing and unsettling experience. It's been admitted by Lynch that he began this movie as an experiment and over the period of three years he would film certain scenes and images before constructing a narrative. Shooting began when he didn't have a script in place but the more he shot, the more the film grew and his ideas merged into something. Many, if not all, viewers will still wonder what he has came up with as this is a film that's so abstract and surreal that it could easily be written off as self-indulgent and pretentious. You could also say, that certain scenes and events don't make sense at all and Lynch is throwing what he can at the screen just to see what sticks. There's no doubt that it's a difficult film to determine meaning from but I also find it difficult to accept that it's accidental. There's a spiritual and existential angle to the film which may or may not be about our main character being in a state of purgatory and going through some form of spiritual cleansing. There's a central theme that can just about be grasped but trying to make sense of the Rabbits sitcom (with out-of-synch laugh tracks), the prostitutes dancing The Locomotion or crazy clown faces are just some of the more bizarre inclusions. The first hour is actually fairly coherent and easy to follow but it's in the second third that the narrative changes perspective and, quite frankly, baffles the shit the out of you. It's very difficult to keep up but this is because the time frame and the characters shift and you're left unsure as to what and whom is doing what and unable to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. At one point Dern even utters the words... "I don't know what was before or after. I don't know what happened first and it's kinda laid a mindfuck on me". Not only will you identify with this feeling but it's a reminder on how the film should be viewed. Any chance of piecing the mystery together has to be done by shuffling the events and characters and approaching the film from a non-linear perspective. Lynch has often toyed with alternate realities, dream states and doppelgänger's and INLAND EMPIRE feels very much like the evil twin to Mulholland Drive. They share similar themes and commentaries on the nature of Hollywood and stardom but for as dark and disturbing as Mulholland Drive was, INLAND EMPIRE takes it much further. This is a truly nightmarish depiction of fractured psyche's and shattered dreams. Like Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive, Laura Dern is front and centre and delivers an outstanding central performance. This an actress I've had a few questions about over time but there really isn't any fault in her superlative work here. She has to play around with several roles and she's entirely committed and convincing in all of them. That said, even Dern and the rest of the cast admitted that they had no idea what the film itself is about. Maybe that's the point. Lynch did, after all, admit that it was an experiment and maybe the fault lies with the viewer for thinking otherwise. In this case, I just accepted the journey as the reward. One of the most challenging and exhausting films I've ever seen. Whether or not you make sense of it, doesn't take away from the fact that you've witnessed an artist at work and been thrust into an intriguing mystery that has the utmost refusal to be solved. If this proves to be Lynch's last film (and I sincerely hope it's not) then he bows out with the ultimate head-fuck. He's most definitely an acquired taste. If you don't like him?... You should acquire some taste. Mark Walker
    Mark W Super Reviewer
  • Jun 26, 2016
    Suits for the style of shooting but quite long.
    Film C Super Reviewer
  • Apr 07, 2015
    Mildly self-indulgent and often slightly pretentious, but interesting throughout nonetheless, Inland Empire finds Lynch at his most provocative since 1977's Eraserhead. The abstract Dalí-like dreamscape that unfolds could be described with any single word in my vocabulary...terrifying, beautiful, sexy, thrilling, funny, crazy... It's good, though but not Lynch's best.
    Harry W Super Reviewer
  • May 28, 2013
    I know that a certain experiment in webshow-making by David Lynch isn't too terribly played up here, but I still like to think of this as "Rabbits: The Movie", only, you know, with more of a plot, and I mean that loosest of ways. Yeah, there's not a whole going on in this film that only runs a tiny little length of [b][u]"three challenging hours"[/u][/b], but hey, it's still got more going on than "Rabbits", because even David Lynch realized that only a solid three quarters of an hour of humanoid rabbits standing around for long, long tedious periods of time before having a nonlinearly-structured soliloquy or conversation to a brooding synthesizer track and studio audience tape is enough of an agonizing overexploration of artistic taste. ...You know what, I'm going to call it like it is, because people like Terrence Malick and, of course, the guys behind the first couple of albums by King Crimson are folks who get carried away with artistic experimentation, whereas Lynch is more or less simply messing with people who are crazy enough to actually run with what he's tossing down. Oh no, people, don't get me wrong, this film and, for that matter, "Rabbits" has plenty of thematic weight that is mildly interesting to ponder upon, I'm just saying that all of this thematic weight is delivered in a ridiculous way, and all you need to do is look at Lynch's hair, attempt to listen to his unlistenable song "Crazy Clown Time", and think about how he's still sane enough to make films in order realize that the man clearly has some kind of a morbid sense of humor. I reckon Nastassja Kinski realized that this film isn't all it's cracked its up to be, because once she looked back upon it and thought about how not even the effort with an acclaimed artistic filmmaker that was supposed to break up a streak of not-so good films isn't even good, she felt that it was about time to quit. No, people, Kinski never said that she quit, and I for one hope to see her again soon, even if she's not hot anymore (Hey, there's always her hot, half-Egyptian daughter), because she's still a talent, and plus, she deserves to be remembered for more than just a cameo in this film. Yeah, this film is a little bit of a disaster, though it's not like you can expect nothing tolerable throughout this miss, as it's not without some undeniable strengths, even when it comes style. The first film by David Lynch to be entirely shot on standard-definition digital, this effort plays with cinematography in a somewhat restrained fashion that, on plenty of occasions, looks rather frustratingly amateur, thus breaking the illusion of subjectiveness and leaving you to realized that you are simply watching a movie, until, of course, we come to heights in Lynch's cinematography that are unexpectedly really high in quality, whether when they're delivering on a unique type of pronounced framing that bounces imagery right at you in an immersive fashion, or interpreting bleaker environments with a tight blending of shadowy lighting and cold coloring that is gritty in a fashion that is both attractive and chilling. When it actually wants to, the film looks pretty good, and there's no denying that, no matter how much this film's low spots in photography throw you off, largely because they are one of many questionable stylistic choices that distance you from the film's substance, which is generally handled in the messiest of fashions, yet still has its share of occasions in which it reminds you of its potential. In a lot of ways, this film just has to be some of a joke or something, but there is no denying that in just as many, maybe even more ways, this film's extreme artistic experimentation feels genuine, if frustratingly misguided and self-congratulatory, being heavily driven by thematic depth and symbolic weight that may be hard to draw out through all of the messiness that may frustrate you to the point of not really wanting to ponder upon this film, but still stand, and are indeed reasonably intriguing, at least in concept, because not all goes smoothly in this generally terribly misguided experiment of a film that still admittedly has its moments of genuine effectiveness when Lynch gets a grip on his intentions. This film often gets to be seriously creepy, and When Lynch gets the atmosphere just right, complimented by haunting visuals and sounds that are themselves complimented by nifty camerawork and excellent sound design work, maybe even David Lynch's and Krzysztof Penderecki's ominous score, this thriller gets to be dreadfully unnerving, maybe even just plain terrifying, and while the emotional results of this film's moments of effective tension are bound to be anything but attractive, they're undeniably impressive, much like an aspect that is consistently of quality: acting. As minimalist as this film's basic premise is, if nothing else is hard to keep up with in this film, it's the number of talented performers, whose cameos, secondary roles, uneven roles, main roles and, I don't know, dinner roles (nyuk-nyuk-nyuk) come with more inspiration than this film probably deserves, with leading lady Laura Dern particularly standing out in her portrayal of multiple characters who are presented in convoluted ways whose messiness goes settled by Dern's commitment to distinguishing each one of her roles through effective range and convincingness as anything from a dangerously unpredictable woman with a dark past to a regular ambitious woman who feels endangered and terrified as she explores unsettling mysteries. There are things to compliment, maybe even praise in this film, which is ultimately a disaster, but is almost saved by the undeniable occasions in which the effective areas of Lynch's generally questionable vision are realized as rather intriguing and artistically commendable. Still, no matter how high this film reaches at times, its high marks really aren't worth working towards, not when you have to sit through a film this messy and questionable, even in style. Again, the high points in David Lynch's cinematography are reasonably attractive in their gritty marriage of hauntingly bleak lighting and coloring over intentionally noisy standard definition, whereas the low point feel look rather distancingly frustrating, yet no matter how good or how weak the film looks, there are still many, many times in which the film's visual style feels too playful, being needlessly overstylized in a fashion that distances you from substance and leaves you unable to cling to the story on a subjective, human level, though not as much as overstylization, not in direction or technical value, but story structure. This film's story structuring is a misguided mess that frustrates, repels and is hurt enough by issues that are not necessarily of an experimental nature, because as bothersome as this film's overstylized "plotting" is, you were never to be too gripped by this underdeveloped and exhaustingly overlong film that is by no means deserving of its sprawling runtime of exactly three hours, which is partially achieved through excess material and filler that aimlessly meanders along into repetition, which in turn continues to plummet deeper and deeper into limpness that soon devolves into all-out monotony. If you take all of the overstylizing out of the equations, this film is still a messy of uneven pacing and narrative aimlessness, but at the end of the day, the overstylization of this film is such an instrumental flaw that there is no denying it as a consistently questionable and frustratingly misguided deathblow to the engagement of this film, which tosses anything from intentionally over-the-top character actions that contradict generally human characterization, to bizarre symbolic imagery - which often seems to not even have a purpose - in the midst of a convoluted narrative structure that is initially generally straight-forward, with jarring slips out of linearity, but gradually devolves into a nonlinear mess that slam-bangs events together in an obnoxiously convoluted fashion that distances intrigue much more than it reinforces it, almost as it that's exactly what David Lynch wants. Too many laud Lynch for having the artistic audacity to unravel this film's story in such an overstylized and thematic fashion, and I'd imagine there is plenty of well-intentioned artistic integrity backing many of Lynch's questionable decisions, but on the whole, I can't shake this gut feeling that Lynch is just kind of messing with all of us, or at least testing our tolerance of his challenges, because where a film this convoluted, even in structure, could be interesting fun to ponder upon and piece together, before too long, it becomes frustrating to try and work out this mess of a film that probably isn't even supposed to make sense, as the final product's heavily pronounced - nay - exhaustingly overblown style gets so carried away that compellingness within this "intricate" mystery "thriller", and the conceptually intriguing themes that you do get a little taste of on the rarest occasions, are thinned into complete dissipation, thus leaving the final product to come of a truly pointless three-hour chore that would be easier to handle if it wasn't, on top of being aimlessly overdrawn and needlessly overstylized, boring as all get-out. Most of this sprawling film is relatively quiet, with a coldly restrained atmosphere, and, as I stated earlier, such a formula makes many an ominous moment in this profoundly psychological thriller pretty, well, terrifying, but more often than not, this film's quiet, dry atmosphere does nothing more than bland things up, sometimes in a simply disengaging fashion, but generally in a harshly dull fashion that challenges your patience intensely and bores like there's no tomorrow, especially when the aforementioned excessive bloating and messy story structuring gives you more than enough time to meditate upon the dryness. The degree of boredom that this film delivers, alone, is enough to distance your resonance and render the film incapable of being likable, yet dullness like this has, time and again, proved to be enough to craft a final product that is simply too bland to be bad, and really did stand a chance of saving this film from a collapse into contempt, but what is most frustrating about this film is not simply that it is an overblown, overstylized mess of an exhaustingly excessive abuse of artistic experimentation, if not morbid joking, but that it has the nerve to demand that you respect it. I suppose I'm more frustrated with the David Lynch fans and other arrogant snobs for appreciating this film's pointlessness more than I'm frustrated with the film itself, but make no mistake, this film is an obnoxiously pretentious bore that meanders along a monotonous, convolutedly overstylized path for three frustrating hours, and doesn't even give you the common courtesy of having something of a real point, just a misguided vision that does have occasions of effectiveness, but is, on the whole, too carried away to be anything more than embarrassingly unrewarding and unworthy of the effort it takes to sit through this mess. Overall, there are attractive moments in David Lynch's cinematography, as surely as there are moments in Lynch's ominous directorial storytelling that are genuinely effectively unsettling, as well as strong acting - particularly by leading lady Laura Dern - and conceptually reasonably intriguing thematic depth attached to a decent, if somewhat thin concept that could have been executed into a passable artistic vision, yet ends up being executed into a misguided disaster, with offputting visual overstylization and aimlessly monotonous bloating within a story structure that is further hurt by messily overdone, convolutedly overstylized storytelling that, when backed by severe dullness and immense arrogance, creates a profound frustration that leaves "Inland Empire" to collapse into a misguided and thoroughly unrewarding misfire of a pretentious experimental piece that truly wastes a solid three whole hours of your life. 1.5/5 - Bad
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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