WARNING: If you are a casual film goer, you are going to hate this movie. But if you look at the deeper meaning of things, and you love artistic movies that aren’t trying to be artsy fartsy for artsy fartsy sake, you might actually love it. If you are a constant reader of my blog or other opinions, you already know what side I am on. UNDER THE SILVER LAKE is an A24 property that, when it got mixed and polarizing reviews at a festival back in early 2018, kept getting delayed and delayed until it was finally quietly dumped on VOD back in April of this year. I hadn’t heard much about this movie beforehand, let alone had watched a trailer, all I knew was that it starred Andrew Garfield and was from writer/director David Robert Mitchell, whose first film back from 2014 I absolutely loved, It Follows. While that movie had a clear cut narrative, this 2 hr and 20 minute weird Hollywood epic has multiple plot threads (some that go places, some that don’t…or do they?) all with the same underlying message. It’s a very unique piece of work.
But whether you think that unique piece of work is brilliant or shitty is completely up to you. I’m not trying to tell you how to feel about this movie. If you watch this and don’t understand what the fuck I was talking about and thought it was boring and pointless, that’s fine, but you better be able to back it up on a film scholar level with me. This movie will require several viewings for some to fully understand it. I got it on the first try, but you know me. This film was a $3 blind buy for me on VUDU (having $3 credit on there made it basically free) and I was told to give it a chance by my favorite film reviewers Mike & Jay on http://www.redlettermedia.com. I watched the first part of their review before they got into spoilers (I recently watched the rest of it and they saw the film the same as I did). Boy, was that the best $3 credit purchase ever, because I kind of love this film. The best things about it is the underlying messages and theme of the movie, the AMAZING cinematography and the AMAZING score by Disasterpiece (who also had an amazing score with It Follows). Oh and uh, I don’t know what attracted Andrew Garfield to this project, but the dude gives it is all in his best performance since Hacksaw Ridge and The Social Network.
It’s going to be really hard to describe this film to you without giving any spoilers, but I’m going to do my best. Andrew Garfield is literally in almost every scene as a young man named Sam who, after a brief yet impactful encounter one night with a new neighbor, Sarah (Riley Keough), goes out and investigates her sudden disappearance, only to stumble upon hidden messages that may or may not lead him to an elusive and dangerous giant Hollywood conspiracy. And there happens to be a dog killer lurking about. Whew, I think I got the gist of it. Obviously there is so much more to what is going on that my statement pertaining to watching it multiple times to actually get it might come true to you. It is a very maze-like wicked tangled web of a film. So much subtext, so much allegory, so many layers. But that’s what I love about the film. It makes you think, where as 90% of the films that come out nowadays are just spoon feeding everything to you, where you can just sit there like a zombie and literally do nothing and these studios and filmmakers expect you to just get a kick out of it…
I think the reason why I probably like this film so much as well is that it comes off the heels of just seeing Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. I don’t know if Mr. Tarantino has seen Under The Silver Lake yet, but if he ever does, I wonder if he thinks both of these movies would go nicely in a whole afternoon long double feature. I sure did. Where as Mr. Tarantino’s film describes the last days of an old, innocent Hollywood system, Under The Silver Lake is inspired by the dirty, gross, seedy underbelly of the New Hollywood system, clearly coming more into light recently because of the #MeToo Movement. This film is more of a transition from old Hollywood to New Hollywood and I expect that there maybe somewhere down the line will be a third film only focused on New Hollywood that combined with these two will make some kind of unofficial trilogy. While representing more New Hollywood, this film shows the transition pretty well with a great musical score by Disasterpiece that is inspired by classic mystery/thriller films. Hitchcockian, if you will. While being set in the present day that old school essence is still there, with a lot of imagery and homages to classic movie industry actors and actresses. Hell, there are even nods to classic philosophers and astronomers in this film to tie everything together!
Some might leave this film wondering if it was sexist or misogynist, clearly missing the point of the entire message, and I feel bad for those that do so. It isn’t weird and elaborate just for the sake of being weird and elaborate. None of this film is just surface level shit and if you don’t want to use your brain to figure out different symbols, messages, and meanings in this, don’t bother ever trying to seek this out, because this film is clearly not for you. If 20 minutes you think the film is too slow, turn it off because you aren’t going to enjoy the rest of it. But if you want your cinematic experience to take you on a WTF journey of long and epic proportions, then I can’t recommend this enough. I have a feeling that in the future this film is going to be studied by film students, especially avante garde and/or expressionistic and experimental ones. Just like Midsommar, I can’t clearly see that and this as masterpieces yet, but I have I feeling on repeat viewings that it might take me in that direction. If you have the bravery to form your own opinion and actually pay attention when watching Under The Silver Lake, I really do hope you enjoy it.