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“Under The Silver Lake” Is A Fever Dream Of Creativity From David Robert Mitchell

Filmmaker David Robert Mitchell blew me away a few years ago with his sophomore feature It Follows. That made anticipation high for his follow up, which turned out to be the noir crime dramedy Under the Silver Lake. Making its debut last year at the Cannes Film Festival, the movie was met with a mixed reception, which led to a release delay by A24. Now, almost twelve months later, the film finally hits theaters this week. Under the Silver Lake may have puzzled audiences and pundits in the south of France back in 2018, but here in 2019 I’m a big fan. It’s unique and unlike anything else out in the cinematic world.

Under the Silver Lake is a mystery set within a slightly off center version of Los Angeles. A plot synopsis is hard to do, and sort of besides the point here. The joy is in the discovery. Still, some broad strokes are appropriate. Sam (Andrew Garfield) is an aimless young man, content to smoke pot and spy on his neighbors, including one who likes to walk around topless. Then, he spots a new neighbor in Sarah (Riley Keough), who essentially hypnotizes him. When she notices him, they spend a short evening together, making plans to see each other the next day. Sam is smitten, though when he goes over, Sarah is gone. Not content to just shrug it off, Sam suspects the worst and even begins to see a conspiracy brewing. Thus begins an odyssey that includes a comic book which gives the film its name, a billionaire, an escort service for struggling actresses, and any number of weirdos. It’s best to discover for yourself where this one goes. David Robert Mitchell writes and directs, while Disasterpiece composed the score and Mike Gioulakis provides the cinematography. Supporting players include Patrick Fischler, Topher Grace, Callie Hernandez, Riki Lindhome, Zosia Mamet, Jimmi Simpson, Grace Van Patten, and more.

I kind of loved this movie. Endlessly fascinating and distinctively weird, Mitchell creates a vivid world you’re consistently compelled to dive deeper into. It’s also the kind of role that Garfield should be taking more. He’s perfectly suited to the oddness on display. Garfield leads a nice ensemble cast (Keough especially makes the most of her scenes with a quiet etherealness), while Mitchell again gets amazing sound and visuals from composer Disasterpiece and cinematographer Gioulakis, respectively. His direction is full bodied and confident, even if it’s hard to argue that the screenplay isn’t a bit overstuffed. Large scale ambition is always appreciated though, even if it occasionally goes a tad astray.

The film certainly is offbeat and not for everyone. Admittedly, I totally can understand why it disappointed a segment of the crowd last year on the festival circuit. In some ways, it’s a cousin to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, though perhaps not as consistently funny. I suppose one could label this a prestige stoner movie, even if that doesn’t do it justice. The flick marches to the beat of its own drummer, that’s for sure. Luckily, that’s part of what makes Under the Silver Lake so intriguing and ultimately so fulfilling. You can’t possibly predict where it goes, which is another part of its unruly charm.

Almost a year after its Cannes debut, Friday brings the opportunity to finally see Under the Silver Lake. If you loved It Follows, you may well love this one too. You just need to not expect the same kind of tone at all. The panache and style is similarly compelling, just in a whole new world. Mitchell is a cinematic voice that’s truly exciting. If every movie of his is going to be this different, that’s a real positive in my book. Keep an open mind and this film might just blow you away. Despite loving his previous flick, I was hesitant. Turns out, it’s one of my favorite works of 2019 so far…

Be sure to check out Under the Silver Lake, in theaters this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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