Film Review – Under The Silver Lake (2018 )

For Five years we’ve impatiently on David Robert Mitchell‘s follow up to It Follows . Now Under The Silver Lake has arrived, it may not tick all the boxes to be an instant cult classic, but it’s on the way to be one.

This is one  film you can file as a marmite film. Many will love it’s unapologetic, idiosyncratic, surreal odyssey. Others will just every little thing about it.

Starring Andrew Garfield as Sam, a no good unemployed slacker. He lives in the hipster district of Silver Lake. He’s about to be evicted as he’s not paid his rent for months. He spends most of his days on his balcony spying on his female neighbours (especially the Bird Lady) with his telescope.

Despite the threats of eviction, Sam doesn’t seem to care or even attempt to sort his situation either.  His world is turned upside down with the arrival of a beautiful new neighbour, Sarah (Riley Keough). He makes his move to get close to her and spends a night with her, before she’s vanishes without trace.

Determined to find what happened to her, Sam becomes an amateur sleuth, puts his obsessive overactive mind into finding the girl he’s only known for a less a day.Diving head first into a world of paranoid people, conspiracy theories, hidden decoded messages, the under belly of Los Angeles.

Not going to pretend, this film is a hard sell to those looking for a conventional film. Having a running time of 2 hours 19 minutes, doesn’t help things. But where does it say films have to be short and sweet , make sense to entertain?  There’s so much going on, sub plots, clues in a film that you may appreciate after a couple of viewings.

Under The Silver Lake is an allegory of Los Angeles and Hollywood particular. From the wall’s of Sam’s flat he has posters from the bygone days of Hollywood (especially the golden age). His mother  record Janet Gaynor films on TV and his new neighbour Sarah who is like Marilyn Monroe. She’s obsessed with 1950’s romance films especially How To Marry A Millionaire (she has Barbie dolls of leading ladies, Monroe, Betty Grabel and Lauren Bacall).

Sam himself we have no clue what he wants out of life and what actually motivates him.  What we do know, he’s a man child obsessed with masturbating over old Playboy Magazines. He’s a selfish, callous human being with a toxic attitude towards women. He sees women as objects of desire for his sexual gratification, which makes you question why is he infatuated in finding in Sarah?

When Sam finally does become that amateur Sam Spade, he takes us on a conspiracy filled journey deep into the underbelly of Hollywood.  A city of sin, a city of dreams. A rabbit hole of bizarre characters, hipster pirates, hobo kings with cardboard crowns and of course Jesus and the Brides Of Dracula.

Among those streets of secret hobo languages, young people dances to 1990s hits in graveyards and underground around the tombstones of famous people. Under The Silver Lake is David Robert Mitchell‘s take on modern Hollywood. Beyond the glitz and glamour the greed, violence, plastic surgery, desperation and broken dreams roam.

Power hungry men also abuse their power to objectify women for sexual kicks whilst promising quicker roads to stardom.  Sam himself represents the fanboy fixation giving us a creepy voyeuristic perspective. We even get a Urban Legend of the Owl’s Kiss, a merciless creature with a woman’s body and Owl’s head. She devours anyone who doesn’t respect her, she is Hollywood incarnate.

Under The Silver Lake tonally similar to Inherent Vice with nods to anything from Southland Tales, David Lynch, Hitchcock and Carpenter films. With so many subplots, some viewers may lose patience, others will want at least a second look before giving an opinion. Beyond the messy story telling , the sexual gratification of women, we have a cult film in the making.  An unapologetic, ambitious, outlandish tale… Welcome to purgatory.


Crime, Comedy | USA, 2018 | 15 | 15th March 2019 (UK) | Cinema | MUBI | Dir.David Robert Mitchell | Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Patrick Fischler

The review was posted originally at The Peoples Movies on 26th March 2019

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