Under the Silver Lake
Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Callie Hernandez, Don McManus, Zosia Mamet, Jeremy Bobb
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…the shaggiest of shaggy dog stories with some wonderful ideas but far too much bloat, practically screaming for a more judicious editor to take a run at the material.
In 2014, director David Robert Mitchell thrilled the world with clever indie horror flick, It Follows. The film’s elegant premise – a sexually transmitted demon – combined with tense direction and a Carpenter-esque score by Disasterpeace made the film a legitimate hit and raised anticipation for his next flick. Said film, Under the Silver Lake, is about to hit our shores for a limited cinema release and the result is… odd, sporadically engaging but not entirely successful.
Under the Silver Lake follows the antics of shiftless slacker, Sam (Andrew Garfield) who spends his days finding conspiracy theories in popular culture, not paying his rent and getting laid with almost surreal frequency. The story, such as it is, kicks off when Sam’s sexy neighbour, Sarah (Riley Keough) vanishes after the pair spend a flirtatious evening together getting baked and watching old movies. Sam investigates what he believes is a layered conspiracy, shambolically moving through Los Angeles uncovering quirky shenanigans such as B-list celebrity prostitutes, a dog killer, ethereal emo bands, the Homeless King (David Yow) and a renowned billionaire whose death hides even further secrets.
The concept of a slacker investigator isn’t a bad one, it was used to great effect in The Big Lebowski (1998) and to slightly less stellar results in Inherent Vice (2014). The problem with Under the Silver Lake’s Sam is that he’s just a bit of a non-event. Pleasant but utterly passive, we’re never entirely sure why he’s doing what he does, which makes him a frustrating protagonist. Also, the film clocks in at a confounding 139 minutes (!) which is way too protracted a runtime for a tale with little or no narrative thread. That’s not to say there aren’t solid moments here; despite his thin character Andrew Garfield does a lot with the little he’s given. Plus, some of the subplots are intriguing, particularly during the story’s third act, but there’s so much extraneous filler you’ll likely find yourself exhausted by the sheer volume of quirk.
David Robert Mitchell’s direction remains solid, stylish and effective, however Under the Silver Lake is let down by surprisingly sloppy writing and a general lack of focus. The end result is the shaggiest of shaggy dog stories with some wonderful ideas but far too much bloat, practically screaming for a more judicious editor to take a run at the material. Ultimately, Under the Silver Lake is fun at times, but too uneven and woolly to recommend without qualification. Still, if you’re in the mood for something loose, amiable and mostly charming, there are worse ways to spend the day.