Not every A24 film can be a Gloria Bell, I suppose. Sometimes, you get an Under the Silver Lake, instead.
Almost a year after the film was initially supposed to come out, A24 has finally released David Robert Mitchell’s directorial follow-up to It Follows — Under the Silver Lake.
If that title sounds at all familiar, you might remember it from the trailers that were released last spring, as the movie was initially supposed to come out in the summer of 2018. After it played at the Cannes Film Festival, however, the film was pushed back to December (which, at the time, everyone thought was so it would pick up more award’s attention) before disappearing from the release schedule altogether.
I guess A24 decided that they couldn’t properly save this movie in the way they had hoped for and, somewhat randomly, just decided to dump it into a few select theaters and onto streaming platforms last weekend.
Under the Silver Lake follows Sam (Andrew Garfield) — an unambitious 20-something-year-old who’s likely suffering from a variety of mental health-related issues. His problems aren’t to the level where he should be hospitalized or anything like that, but he’s somewhat delusions and has a somewhat concerning affection for conspiracy theories and hidden messages.
Sam is spending another aimless day in his Los Angeles condo (he often tells people that he has a job, but the longer the film goes on, the more we get the sense that he’s probably lying about that) when he runs into his new next-door neighbor, Sarah (Riley Keough).
For whatever reason, Sam can’t seem to get Sarah off his mind, either. I mean, he’s pretty obviously physically attracted to her, but he also notes that there’s something else about her presence that’s kind of just drawing him towards her.
The two eventually get to talking and, before long, begin falling into the motions of what looks to be a pretty romantic night right before they’re interrupted by two of Sarah’s housemates and a guy who is dressed up as a pirate.
The pirate literally keeps appearing throughout Under the Silver Lake but never has any actual dialogue or hardly even addressed, by the way, just in case you didn’t understand what kind of movie this is yet.
No biggie, Sarah tells Sam. He can just come back tomorrow afternoon and they can try again.
That’s what Sam does, too, only to find that Sarah is nowhere to be seen when he shows up again. In fact, not only is she gone, but the once inhabited apartment now looks to be completely abandoned and ransacked.
This time it’s the building’s landlord (Better Call Saul’s Rex Linn) who tells Sam it’s no biggie. This kind of thing happens in Los Angeles, after all. It’s better to not get involved and worry about other things like paying his very late rent, instead.
For whatever reason, Sam can’t let it go, though. He knows there’s some kind of mystery surrounding Sarah’s disappearance, and believes that the only way to find out what happened to her is to decipher a series of codes and clues that were left in seemingly random places.
That all calls for what is, or at least, what should be a very Big Lebowski or Forrest Gump kind of movie as Sam drifts from place-to-place as he investigates this mystery that’s slowly consuming him more and more.
And, for a while, that works! Sure, Big Lebowski might have done it a little bit better, but those absurdly unusual scenarios and the ambiguity behind how they might all be connected is pretty intriguing, for some time. During the whole first half in this movie, I found myself kind of going crazy right alongside Sam as I was trying to map out how things were connected to one another and what all of this might mean.
It was around the halfway point of Under the Silver Lake, though, when the fact that there really isn’t any meaning to any of this finally clicked. David Robert Mitchell isn’t here to tell a complete story or anything like that; he’s deliberately messing with the audience to see how much of this they can take before they, too, go insane.
That’s when Under the Silver Lake started to tumble, roll and eventually free-fall down the cliff for me. While some may find the random sequence of events to still be entertaining — and I know there are those who feel that way, which is great, as I’m not going to stand in the way of anybody looking to make this thing a new cult-hit — I just found it to be exhausting. They go full Synecdoche, New York or Inherent Vice during the second half of the movie, as the film’s pretentiousness gets in the way of anything with any kind of substance.
To be fair, they do walk that back in the last, oh, ten or fifteen minutes or so as they try to give this thing some kind of climax and resolution, but it’s still too little too late by that point.
Again, Under the Silver Lake still might work for people, and I get it. I’m not trying to give the impression that I need everything explained to me in movies, because that’s not the case, either. Ambiguity in filmmaking is a good thing, and you can turn to recent examples of Jordan Peele’s Us or IFC Midnight’s The Wind in how to do that in the correct way.
That’s the thing, though — there is a correct and incorrect way to do ambiguity. When we’ve reached a point where you could re-edit the scenes entire second half of this movie into any order and it’d still make about as much sense as the current version does, that’s a problem.
While Under the Silver Lake started off promising, it eventually gets too big for its britches and becomes a lesson in patience more than anything (especially given that this thing clocks in at the 2 hour and 20-minute mark, which is WAY too long). I still don’t totally understand why A24 tried to bury this in the way they did — both How to Talk to Girls at Parties and Climax are worse films that came out of their production studio, in my opinion — I’m also not going to be the one who stands here and defends this one.
Watch the trailer for Under the Silver Lake here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the film!
'Under the Silver Lake' - A film sunk by its own release [REVIEW]4