Dan Holford’s review published on Letterboxd:
“This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top.”
This is my first ever Lynch film, and maybe not the best one to start with. I’m not really sure how to review this movie. It’s a rather unpleasant experience, especially some of the darker flashbacks and dialogue, at total odds with the hyper realism and over the top characters of the rest of the movie. I found myself feeling confused or grossed out.
There’s so much going on through the movie, so many odd moments and scenes that don’t quite feel like they mesh together. The dialogue feels clunky and unnatural, and that’s added to some weird and campy performances from some of the cast. I’m sure that was probably some of the intention behind this movie, to make the audience feel on edge and disturbed, but it’s not really what I want from a movie at all.
I can appreciate certain aspects of the movie. There’s a few moments I really liked, the over the top nature and hyper realism can work in its favour at times, but it feels totally at odds with some of the more bleak and serious subject matters that are touched upon. I never quite understood the tone the movie was going for. I’m sure there’s a deeper meaning to a lot of the dialogue and scenes that I’m missing, especially with the prominence of Wizard of Oz references thrown into the mix.
I don’t think there’s a single likeable character in the entire movie, no one to root for, but the cast does a good job. I thought Dern was great, chaotic and strong willed, a messy character in a rather messy world. It’s a real shame she doesn’t get to do more stuff on her own here. She’s let down by having her and Cage constantly being in scenes together; their chemistry isn’t great, and I really didn’t like how pantomime and over the top his character and performance was. Their relationship never felt real to me, which is sort of the crux of the entire story to unfold around. Dafoe is horrendously creepy and a horrible character, and Diane Ladd who perfectly portrays the grieving and slow breakdown of the mother.
It’s a movie that I can appreciate but I can’t say I enjoyed at all. I permanently felt awkward and on edge watching the film play out and not in a good, gripping way. I want to try out some more of Lynch’s work after this, to see what else he manages to produce, and maybe even give me more of an understanding to this movie. I think it’s a well made and produced movie, but for me, I didn’t settle in and enjoy it.