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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.15.18] comedy thriller crime

Writer/director David Robert Mitchell earned a lot of respect with the outstanding It Follows (review) but much of that good will has washed away with Under the Silver Lake which is, to put it lightly, a mess of a movie.

Andrew Garfield stars as Sam, an out of work Hollywood casual, hints suggest he's a wanna-be writer but I don't recall him ever saying what he used to do for a living. He spends his days on his patio, spying on one of his neighbours who enjoys feeding her many birds and watering her plants topless, having occasional hook-ups with a friend who may or may not be his girlfriend and reading comics, particularly an indie comic written by a local obsessed with conspiracy theories.

On what begins as another typical day, Sam sees a new face, a young woman by the pool with her yappy little dog. Instantly smitten, he befriends the young woman, Sarah, and when she suddenly disappears, Sam becomes convinced that something nefarious is going on and begins obsessively looking for clues which he sees everywhere. Soon, his mind is swirling with ideas that include everything from some of the bizarre theories he's read in his favourite comic, seeing clues where there appear to be none and "solving" the case with the help of an old Nintendo Power magazine.

I don't know what Under the Silver Lake is about. The Hollywood setting, Sam's run-ins with random people all of whom work in the industry, particularly his run-in with an ex-girlfriend who is trying to make it as an actress, is clearly Mitchell commenting about how everyone who lives in Hollywood is, in some way, working in the movies or at least trying to. Beyond that I don't know what else, if anything, he's trying to say at to be honest, at about the hour mark, I didn't care anymore.

I like that the story takes risks and the plot's strangeness had me interested for a while but Mitchell takes too long to answer any of the questions he raises and by the time Sam starts to make connections, as far fetched as they are, I'd long ago lost any interest in the story.

That's not to say that Under the Silver Lake has nothing going for it. Mike Gioulakis beautifully captures what feels like the wackiness of Hollywood and though there aren't any jaw-dropping tracking shots like in It Follows, the movie does look beautiful. There are the performances, particularly from Garfield, who goes all-inn on the craziness of Sam, and then there's the music, a soundtrack filled almost exclusively with R.E.M. tunes which I'm sure says something but whatever it is is a mystery to me.

It's bold and unconventional but Under the Silver Lake just feels like an endlessly meandering mess with no purpose or direction. I was bored and didn't care and couldn't wait for it to end. Not exactly high praise but I'm still curious to see what Mitchell has for us next. Hopefully it's more It Follows than this.

Under the Silver Lake opens December 7.

Recommended Release: It Follows

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