An LA slacker unearths a conspiracy in his hunt for a missing neighbor.
Directed by David Robert Mitchell
Starring Andrew Garfield
Review by Jon Kissel
We recently discussed Inherent Vice and that film’s plot isn’t so much more complex than this one. What’s uniting everything that happens in that PTA work is a thread about the end of an optimistic period and its exploitation by powerful interests, so the particulars of coked-out dentists and secret Nazi’s are less important than those characters being pawns in the overarching game. Under the Silver Lake shares in its conspiratorial leanings, but it has little of Inherent Vice’s unifying theme, or any unifying theme. There’s appealing stuff here, like the poisonous appeal of nostalgia, the commercialization of art, the rich’s disdain for everyone else, the need for punk kids to be punched square in the balls, etc, but it’s disconnected from each other and spreading out all that stuff and more is a scattershot approach that dilutes the film into some weak tea. Without one recurring idea, the film becomes a sequence of scenes. Some of them are great, sure, but we’re watching a movie, not a youtube playlist.
The biggest knock against Under the Silver Lake is that I recognize that there’s a deep well of content here, but I can’t find the motivation to get to the bottom of it. As far as complex puzzles that I recognize but can’t get exorcised over, we’re not quite in Primer territory, as this is much better made film with moments of greatness, but we’re close. Mitchell’s made a watchable film with some strong performances, including an oddly threatening one from Garfield, that stays cold and distant even as its final scenes make a play for emotional heft. Do I want it buried under the earth and sealed in concrete? I don’t, but I’m likely never to think about it again, so it may as well be. C+