Under the Silver Lake (2018)
Director (and writer): David Robert Mitchell
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Riki Lindhome, Grace Van Patten, Patrick Fischler, Jimmi Simpson, Callie Hernandez
Sam, intelligent but without purpose, finds a mysterious woman swimming in his apartment’s pool one night. The next morning, she disappears. Sam sets off across LA to find her, and along the way he uncovers a conspiracy far more bizarre. – IMDB
Following the success of indie horror It Follows, David Robert Mitchell takes his unique vision to this project Under the Silver Lake and casts Andrew Garfield as the main lead Sam. Under the Silver Lake is ambitious to say the least. There are a lot of pop culture references in there used incredibly cleverly. The filming is done very well choosing some great Los Angeles backdrops. There are injections of comic strip moments as it follows the works of an author who tells the story of “Under the Silver Lake” and other legends hidden in the city. It has some colorful and whimsical characters who cross paths with Sam and truly embrace the black comedy effectively. Finally, the most outstanding quality of this film goes to its embrace of classic Hollywood in both the way certain shots are filmed in terms of lighting and framed up to the outfits of some of the actresses.
With Classic Hollywood and pop culture scattered cleverly throughout this film, it is hard to not like it. Except it also is easy to get a little lost because as offbeat as the story is meant to be, it lingers on feeling almost disjointed. Sam goes on this journey that almost feels like a lazy unambitious young man falling into his own version of Alice in Wonderland. His journey takes him from one set piece to the next with parties, cemetery screenings, secret tunnels amd even secluded mansions with an old man who claims he created all the most popular tunes of the last few decades. Oddly in this journey, as much as Andrew Garfield delivers a decent performance, Sam is honestly pretty unamusing to watch. It is hard to be invested in a movie where the main character is a focal point that we spend all the time from his point of view on this surreal journey and there never feels like a sense of investment. Even the moments of danger, usually end in some form of black comedy resolution and it never feels like he is in peril. On top of that, the audience might be the only person that questions why he gets into all these fancy parties when he goes there all scruffy and in simple t-shirts and even pyjamas. It is hard to root for someone who we can’t even see the appeal that all these lovely ladies seem to just see some charm in. Except there are hints also that Sam isn’t a shallow character and at parts, there is a hint of the sense of failure he feels and even the mask he puts on as he hides away the truth about his unambitious life and the regrets.
At the end of the day, Under the Silver Lake is a slow-paced ambitious piece of cinema. Its unique and surrealistic dive into the whimsical underbelly of Los Angeles has its charm but it isn’t going to be for everyone. Especially when the story itself feels disjointed and most of all, the main character is pretty unamusing to watch and there is no reason to fight for his search because at certain points it feels like even the story makes him forgets what was the main goal in the first place. Perhaps if you squint between the lines, Under the Silver Lake embodies a tale about the society and the lack of sense of direction in life and ambition and it just takes one little thing to change it all around and find motivation and commitment. For this one, maybe its ambition affected its overall storytelling just a little bit.
The review was also posted on That Moment In.