Cast: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Callie Hernandez
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Ok everyone, strap in for this review. It’s going to be a tough one. Whenever you have a weird movie about conspiracy theories, murder, and celebrity status in Hollywood, it helps to have some level of ability to identify with the story and make it relatable to anyone outside of that circle. Under the Silver Lake seems to be one of those movies that has an audience out there for it, but I’m not apart of that audience. After seeing Mitchell’s work on It Follows, I was really anxious to see what he had up next, but Under the Silver Lake fails due to its unnecessarily complex premise and lack of general appeal.
The film follows Sam (Garfield), an underachieving man who enjoys conspiracy theories and the influence they have on pop culture. When his neighbor Sarah (Keough) disappears one morning, Sam makes it his mission to find out what happened to her and gets caught up in a world of underground conspiracy theories that take him into the depths of Los Angeles and changes his worldview forever. From a purely filmmaking standpoint, Under the Silver Lake is a very aesthetically pleasing movie to watch. Whether it’s the creepy score, editing, or the cinematography, Under the Silver Lake is a slow-paced 139 minute movie, but from a director’s standpoint it looks like a movie that could satisfy audiences. It definitely has a similar feel to It Follows, but that extra 39 minutes really add up and drag the film to an unnecessary length. Outside of the technical work, the plot spans the range from complicated to outright ridiculous. There are points in the movie where I have no idea how Sam makes the leap in logic and just manages to push the movie along. It feels like you need a PHD to figure out everything going on and that’s not the best way to attract widespread audiences. There’s a group of people out there who will probably love this movie, but I found myself completely dumbfounded and disinterested as a result of the confusion. Garfield is pretty solid in the leading role and shows that he can hit the mark needed to present a confused, slacker protagonist who later finds his obsession, but the general story surrounding his character is bizarre at best. I’ve never been to Los Angeles, but the film does a very poor job of explaining the significance of locations and themes presented in the movie and just assumes you know these landmarks and why they are relevant. Under the Silver Lake has a very niche audience who will probably defend it to their dying breath, but everyone else will probably have a rough time with this movie. Conspiracy theories aren’t exactly the most relatable topic to make a movie about, so the plot needs to be airtight for a movie like this to succeed. Unfortunately for Under the Silver Lake, the plot is too confusing for its own good and shows a step backwards for Mitchell that hopefully he recovers from with his next movie.
Overall, Under the Silver Lake is the perfect movie for people who believe that we never put a man on the Moon. It just feels like a movie that had no reason or purpose to exist and shows that some ideas should remain in the writer’s room. Considering this movie has no direct source material, it means Mitchell sat down, wrote all of these ideas out, and thought he had something special on his hands. While the plot didn’t exactly work out, the filmmaking elements present show that Mitchell is still and incredibly talented and prolific filmmaker who just needs to iron out some of his future ideas.
Overall Score: 5/10