Inland Empire

 
Directed by: David Lynch
Written by:David Lynch
Starring: Laura Dern, Jeremy Irons, Justin Theroux, Harry Dean Stanton, Diane Ladd, Julia Ormond
Released: November 15, 2007
Grade: C+

I just saw Inland Empire.  But did I really see it?  Maybe I just imagined it.  How do I know?  What if it was all just a dream?  Then how would I be writing this review right now?  But maybe I’m not writing this review right now?  But then how would you be reading this review right now?  Maybe you’re dreaming?  How do you know for sure?  Maybe you’re hallucinating?  How do you know for sure?  Maybe you’re part of a world where rabbits talk and appear in television sitcoms?  How do you know for sure?

Confused?  I hope so.  I’m trying to recreate the experience of watching Inland Empire.  Nothing makes sense.  People appear and disappear.  The leading character (played by Laura Dern) looks different in almost every scene.  Her name is always changing – is it Nikki or Sue?  I understood the first half hour but beyond that, I have absolutely no idea what this film is about or what it is trying to say.  To make matters worse – it’s three mind-numbing hours long!

It begins with an actress (Dern) scoring a leading role in a major new movie.  On the first day of shooting, she finds out that the film is actually a “remake”.  The original film was never released though because it was never completed.  Both the male and female lead were murdered during production.  Apparently they were warned by some Polish gypsy that the film was “cursed”.

So what else is in this movie?  There are some strange musical numbers involving a group of prostitutes.  There is a girl who watches TV and cries.  There are people with blurred faces.  There is a woman with an ice-pick stuck in her stomach.  There are mysterious locations that change a lot.  There are explained flashes of light.  There are scenes with subtitles.  There is no order in the way that events unfold.  Oh yeah, and there’s the walking, talking rabbits.

Writer-director David Lynch’s last major film was Muholland Dr.  It was my favourite film of 2002.  It was similarly creative in terms of its structure but I was able to follow the story and the loved the challenge of trying to figure it all out.  Inland Empire goes too far.  It’s overly random and there isn’t enough plot.  I liked this comment from critic Margaret Pomeranz on the most recent episode of At The Movies – “I believe that he just made this up as he went along and it shows.  It's like it's a wank.”

I’m not as harsh as Margaret and I think Lynch deserves a little credit for his artistry.  In a world where so many movies feel the same, Lynch has come up with something that people will remember (for better or worse).  He has also conjured a brilliant performance from Laura Dern, one of Hollywood’s most underrated actresses.

When it comes down to the crunch however, how can I possibly recommend this?  Do you really want to give up three hours (plus trailers) of your life to watch something that you have no chance of understanding?  I could think of better alternatives.  Unless of course this is all a dream…