(director/writer: David Robert Mitchell; cinematographer: Mike Gioulakis; editor: Julio Perez IV; music: Disasterpeace; cast: Andrew Garfield (Sam), Riley Keough (Sarah), Topher Grace (Bar Buddy), Patrick Fischler (Comic Man), Grace Van Patten (Balloon Girl), Callie Hernandez (Millicent Sevence), Zosia Mamet (Troy), Jeremy Bobb (Songwriter), Sydney Sweeney (Shooting Star #2), Jimmi Simpson (Allen), David Yow (Homeless King), Deborah Gefner (Mom’s Voice), ; Runtime: 139; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Chris Bender, Michael De Luca, Adele Romanski, Jake Weiner; A24; 2018)

“I was ensnared by its stoner charms.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

David Robert Mitchell (“It Follows”/”The Myth of the American Sleepover”) is the writer-director of this baffling, derivative, postmodern neo-noir sex-conspiracy flick. It seems too emotionally twisted and void as a pop culture venture into David Lynch fantasy fare to work, but might just be a curio without meaning that is nevertheless endearing. A movie that has too many unexplained characters who come in and out of the movie to make sense of with only one viewing. The idler, East L.A., stoner, comic book fan, movie poster collector, reader of the Hollywood fanzine called “Under the Silver Lake” and Peeping Tom named Sam (Andrew Garfield, whose acting antics keep things watchable even when things go flat) is about to be evicted from his apartment for not paying the rent. At this time he turns amateur private detective to look into the disappearance of the beautiful, mysterious new neighbor, Sarah (Riley Keough, the grandchild of Elvis), he has a crush on and uses binoculars to spy on when she’s at the pool. After she invites him over to her place one night to get stoned and watch an old Marilyn Monroe film on TV, he discovers that the next day she’s moved out in the middle of the night and leaves no clue of where she’s at when he tries locating her. This is what moves him to become a sleuth. He goes to work when not masturbating or playing video games or talking with his mom (the voice of Deborah Gefner) about Janet Gaynor in the silent film Seventh Heaven that she is watching on TV, as he obsessively gathers clues he believes are related to a conspiracy theory that’s linked to pop-culture references he considers part of the case or from a serial dog killer terrorizing the city or possibly relevant lyrics about Sarah’s disappearance hidden in a goth rock band’s songs. It leads to a chase through the Hollywood underworld of dancers, groupies, heiresses, the quirky rich folks, struggling actors, and cultists. Whatever, Mitchell creates a dreamy cityscape atmospheric film that battles with a flat storyline and being too long. But it touched my desire for weird personal films that might not make sense at first but are trippy and might somehow in the long-run make sense if given a chance to be understood. It reminds me of films such as Lynch’s Mullholland Drive and Altman’s The Long Goodbye, but are not as polished. Despite the film’s slight plot and absurd mindfuck games it plays, I was ensnared by its stoner charms and possibilities. There’s an animated sequence from illustrator Milo Neuman when the magazine Under The Silver Lake is introduced in the film as part of Sam’s reading material.

Under The Silver Lake

REVIEWED ON 4/1/2019 GRADE: B+     https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/