Monday, July 23, 2018

Fantasia 2018--Under the Silver Lake--David Robert Mitchell (2018)

Sam (Andrew Garfield) is a study in white male hetero entitled voyeurism in Under the Silver Lake (2018)
Well, David Robert Mitchell has squandered all of his accumulated cache from 2014's It Follows with the witless slog of his latest white male fantasy, Under the Silver Lake (2018), which had its North American Premiere at the 2018 Fantasia Film Festival.  The film had earned mixed reviews from its Cannes film festival screenings, and has subsequently had its release date postponed from June 22nd to December 7th after its lackluster reception.  So perhaps I'm not surprised to be massively disappointed by this film that follows grade-A unemployed loser and entitled Silver Lake denizen Sam (Andrew Garfield) as he wanders from apartment to apartment and party to party in search of some mystery girl who he interacted with very briefly, and who disappears from the apartment across the courtyard of his NICE digs in this uber-hip neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Robert Mitchell sets the tone immediately with his latest film by A) having some weirdo animatronic animal (squirrel? beaver? dog?) fall down splat from above, and then briefly animate before keeling over  So, I guess it's QUIRKY!!  Then B) he has Sam laying about on his balcony, with binoculars, watching the topless hippy parrot/parakeet owner across the way.  Very shortly after that, Sam has sex with someone credited as "The Actress" played by Riki Lindhome, because Garfunkel and Oates are not making the big bucks, as they should, and she has to pay the rent, dammit.  May I remind you, that in this film, she is not even given a name.  Granted, other women are called "Balloon Girl" and "Bird Lady," so I guess Riley Keough should be thankful that her manic pixie dream girl "Sarah" actually has a name, although she should just be called "manic pixie dream girl" or "Marilyn Monroe Wannabee" for consistency's sake.
Sarah (Riley Keough) giggles, drinks OJ and eats saltines in bed, and gives Sam some sense of purpose
Sarah catches Sam spying on her from his balcony, and for some very unclear reason, invites him over for a joint, and some OJ and saltines at her place.  She shares one rather chaste kiss before she boots him out of her apartment, planning on meeting up with him the next day.  Yet, when he goes to meet her, he finds the apartment abandoned, uninhabited, as Sarah and her roommates have somehow "poof" disappeared.  This excitement is a bit too much for Sam, who sees conspiracies around every corner, and believes there's some secret message hidden in old images of Vanna White's glances.  Aimless Sam has now got an aim (find Sarah) and neither hipster performance artists (like Balloon Girl) or emo bands such as "Jesus and the Brides of Dracula" will get in his way.  He will journey from hip underground parties, to cool cemetery film screenings in search of the girl he spent approximately 20 minutes with, all in a single-minded stalker quest to find her. 

All the girls want to sleep with loser Sam
My contempt for most of the narrative compels me to skim over some of the more interesting visual and aural touches that Robert Mitchell scatters throughout the film.  The soundtrack is really lush and often echoes noir soundtracks of the past, although no matter how I look at Under the Silver Lake, Andrew Garfield is no Robert Mitchum, nor Bogart, nor even Fred MacMurray.  The film's "ode to Los Angeles" is inconsistent though--are we supposed to be mesmerized by Silver Lake's laid back hipness, or disgusted by its shallow pretension?  Likewise, the film has some striking moments of violence.  One of my favorites has Sam kicking the crap out of two unsuspecting kids, where someone in the audience called out "You get 'em, Spiderman!"  Nice.  Yet, I'm not sure how to interpret this deadbeat nerd-bro's acts of sudden rage.  While they elicited a cheer from Fantasia's audience (look, something's actually happening!), I did not understand what they signified beyond some white male revenge fantasy against petty problems.  How dare you ruin my hero worship of Kurt Cobain, old songwriter dude who laughs maniacally! 

Also, there's this really cool sequence that's a live action motion graphic of a local zine created by Patrick Fischler, who is a lovely presence in just about any film.  But why is this animated sequence in the film?  Cuz it's quirky as fu**.  Lots of questions float around that don't necessarily require answers, but provide motivation for our lame-o detective wannabee to move from point A to point B.  Why is there an underground bunker, and what does it have to do with missing millionaire Jefferson Sevence?  Also, who is the nefarious dog killer, and why are the skunks in Los Angeles so invested in spraying Sam.  I guess, the ultimate question is do we really care?  Nope.