Under the Silver Lake (3 stars)

Under the Silver Lake

Cannes 2018: Sprawling and fitfully amusing neo noir from David Robert Mitchell

David Robert Mitchell turned his hand to teen drama for his debut The Myth of the American Sleepover, before updating the slasher and paying homage to John Carpenter with It Follows. For his third film, he takes an ambitious detour with a sprawling modern-day LA noir. Influences include The Long Goodbye, The Big Lebowski and Inherent Vice, to name but a few.

Playing Sam, an idle man about to be evicted from his apartment for not paying the rent, Andrew Garfield turns in a performance that is checked out and tuned in to the strange vibes of this labyrinthine and Lynchian trip through famous landmarks, digital age-based paranoia and narcissism. He spends his time perving on women through binoculars, becoming obsessed with Hitchcockian blonde Sarah (Riley Keough), who he goes in search of when she suddenly disappears.

Sam's investigation leads him to cryptic clues and dead ends, with Mitchell referencing and examining popular culture and a generation who refuse to grow up. Sam is constantly looking for a distraction from his responsibilities and is obsessed with conspiracy theories, such as the media utilising symbols that only the wealthy can understand. He owns a large stack of Nintendo magazines, loves reading a 'zine about an Owl woman who preys on men, and worships Kurt Cobain. He hangs out with a random man (Topher Grace) who uses a drone to spy on women, but when women show emotion he quickly excuses himself.

All the ladies Sam meets are resourceful and want to have sex with him, and Mitchell acknowledges the ridiculousness of the male gaze, yet he can't help but indulge in it. In Sam he has created a character who is hugely unlikeable and that's the point. He's not a stoner like The Dude, though he does toke and accidentally take acid. Though fitfully amusing, Under the Silver Lake lacks the calamitous hilarity of its predecessors, but Mitchell occasionally digs up gold as his protagonist delves around Hollywood.

Screening as part of the Cannes Film Festival 2018. General release TBC.

Under the Silver Lake

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • US
  • 2h 19min
  • Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
  • Cast: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace

Sam (Garfield) becomes obsessed with Hitchcockian blonde Sarah (Keough), and when she suddenly disappears he goes in search of her. Lynchian exploration of LA noir, fitfully amusing but lacking the intensity of its rather obvious influences.