Thursday, August 4, 2011

REVIEW: Inland Empire (2006)

Complete unedited thoughts I just scribbled down.

Director: Jeremy Irons
Starring: Laura Dern, Jeremy Irons, Justin Theroux

I really liked the other Lynch film I've seen, Mulholland Dr., but Inland Empire didn't really captivate me the same way. This is difficult to rate, and I'm sure I'll watch it again someday and think some very different things about it. Mostly this suffers from its 3 hour run-time, which is fine with me, except I thought the film stretched itself thin by quite a lot. There wasn't anything in Inland Empire I'd call really bad, and some moments, most notably in the first hour or so, are beautiful and captivating. Lynch's fondness for holding long close-ups on people's faces and on things they're looking at seems to have gone into complete overdrive here, as it happens all the time, and sometimes it frankly just gets boring; I'm sorry. Sometimes it works, but other times, and more and more as the movie goes on, it just feels like the cameraman had a stroke on set. The lighting is pretty crazy at times, and I confess I didn't get what it was going for exactly - definitely pretty freaky sometimes though, so there's that. Acting was as oddball and spastic as it was in Mulholland, except even moreso. Both movies seem to have this schizo balance between normal acting at some parts and then just completely off the wall, awkward, strange deliveries and facial expressions that come out of nowhere, and I like that. It adds a very off-kilter quality to everything, making any scene - even a few of the weaker ones in this movie - scary and surreal, and that's probably a big part of why I can't totally be mad at this movie.

The jarring and dramatic score and the building paranoia of the first hour made me think this was going to be another explosive thrill-ride a la Mulholland Drive, but this movie seemed to be going for something else entirely once I watched it progress. A sort of breakdown in a way, a degeneration of logic and sense - not an explosion or a big bang like Mullholland had, but rather a slow-burning decay of the film's sanity. Sort of like a very vivid, artsy depiction of senility. That sounds ridiculous even writing it but that's really what I got from this, I guess. Some parts of this movie were beautiful and vivid, other parts were downright horrifying, other parts still were more subtly tense, but a lot of the 3 hours of material here isn't really as good as all that. 3 hours is a long damn time for a movie to run and Inland Empire does tend to lose itself quite often. As intriguing and watchable as I found the best parts of the movie, there was always a scene or two after those that ran for too long and just broke the mood and vibe it was setting. The story is barely coherent, and while I can't really say that was a big factor in my mixed feelings for Inland Empire, it definitely didn't help. Ambiguity is cool - confusing the viewer can work, and for some bits the movie does it very well, but other times it just loses me, and I'm repeating myself now anyway.

I'd probably give this movie around a 3.5/5 rating if I absolutely was forced to assign one, but I don't think a rating can really do this justice, as in some ways I really liked this, found it beautiful and disturbing and horrific and artful and the whole array of terms you can use to describe various emotive pieces of art, but dually, somewhat paradoxically, I found it lacking in a lot of areas, and it could have been a lot stronger of a movie overall. Doesn't make sense to me either, but then, that is what Inland Empire evokes - these are the kind of conflicting feelings it brings out. Observing art on a purely sensual level, I found this rather stunning, but as a person who watches movies, it could have been improved majorly and lost nothing of its artfulness - so I come down in the middle. Go see it if you want. It's really interesting and will make you think about movies and about the plot. But, speaking as a person who's only seen this and Mulholland Dr. from Lynch...go see the latter first.