Under the Silver Lake

First, the bad - David Robert Mitchell not listen to his own music or something? Gotta crib exclusively from other movies like this one? Poor form.

Second, an admission - almost every element of this movie is completely in my wheelhouse; an awful version of this would still be at least halfway appealing.

Third, a conclusion - I was all about this thing from the jump. It picks away at the way young men in this town chase women, fame, and power, the way we despise and at least passively praise wealth, holding out hope that if we uncover the absurd trivia of their lives, we might gain access to their world. Deep suspicion of wealth runs through the film, but just as much as something Sam (Andrew Garfield) feels he belongs to (driving a car he can't afford, crashing parties he's not invited to, chasing women with only passing interest in him) as some wrong he's hoping to right. He seems to think that the codes he unlocks will pull him out of his misery, and for awhile they almost do...almost...

That those codes are embedded in millennial nostalgia - old video games and rock music, cereal boxes and used book stores - only further twists the knife. Where READY PLAYER ONE more obviously, and loads of other shows and movies more casually, suggest pop culture knowledge will be our redemption, UNDER THE SILVER LAKE says, sure, that trivia might unlock some stuff, but you're still just bored and shiftless and sitting at home solving pointless puzzles.

The film also very well digs out the weird obsession with death that surrounds the city, with dead celebrities engraved in its sidewalks and revered by a certain set of over-informed hobbyists, with the film screenings and parties that happen amidst the graves of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

I'm probably not fully qualified - nor have I completely scoured the film - to settle the question of misogyny that's hung over it, but I gathered a few things from the film on first viewing in this regard. The film's view of women chiefly through a sexual lens feels pertinent to Sam's perspective, and the way he's walled himself off from any kind of meaningful relationship or friendship. That this feels unpleasant is a natural byproduct of spending time with a character possessing a limited worldview and narcissistic framework. The final scene between he and Riley Keough, who plays the woman at the center of the mystery, cements how much he takes for granted about his place in all this. Sam in some ways feels owed sexual success, at once taking for granted the women who do sleep with him, and overwhelmed by the vague interest from anyone else who might. He views with contempt the man who holds a "movie audition" for a project that probably doesn't exist out of his garage, yet envies him the scores of attractive young women who file in to be photographed for it.

The film is too formally controlled, too expressionistic and overtly surreal, and its character to clearly guilty of what he's assailing, to fit into the LONG GOODBYE/LEBOWSKI/INHERENT VICE framework to which it's been frequently placed. Jean-Pierre Léaud's character and storyline in OUT 1 feels like a better point of entry, but the film I thought of the most was actually LA LA LAND, another third film by a clearly-talented filmmaker who was launched to success after his second film (his first having been more or less a blip on the radar, if that) who's punching a little bit above his weight class and is still a little too derivative, but who is clearly thinking about the motion picture and methods of depiction in a way that promises a lot for the future, should his opportunities continue. And in both cases, I hope they do.