Under the Silver Lake
|Under the Silver Lake|
|Directed by||David Robert Mitchell|
|Written by||David Robert Mitchell|
|Edited by||Julio Perez IV|
|Box office||$1.7 million|
Under the Silver Lake is a 2018 American neo-noir mystery film written, produced and directed by David Robert Mitchell. Set in Los Angeles, it stars Andrew Garfield as a young man who sets out on a quest to investigate the sudden disappearance of his neighbour (Riley Keough), only to stumble upon an elusive and dangerous large-scale conspiracy.
The film had its world premiere on May 15, 2018 at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d'Or, before being released nationwide in France on August 8. It is scheduled to be released in the United States on April 19, 2019, by A24. Under the Silver Lake polarized critics; although its originality, direction, soundtrack, cinematography, and Garfield's performance were praised, some found the script confusing, too cryptic, and lacking the substance and depth the film was aiming for.
Sam is an affable but aimless young man with an interest in conspiracy theories and finding hidden messages in everyday popular culture, who lives a lazy, jobless life in Los Angeles. One day he meets and develops a crush on his new neighbour Sarah. She tells him to come back the next day, but when he does, she and her roommates all seemingly moved out during the night. Meanwhile, he becomes fascinated with a zine titled Under the Silver Lake, which features story elements reminiscent of recent real-life events such as a serial dog killer. After following a woman he spotted going through Sarah's apartment, Sam starts following a chain of individuals and events in the hopes of finding information about Sarah, and starts believing he is being followed. However, he later identifies Sarah as one of the three women who died in a car fire alongside billionaire mogul Jefferson Sevence, recognizing one of the victims' hat to be hers. After a conspiracy theorist friend of Sam, the author of the graphic novel, and obsessed with the back cover of an old cereal box is found dead from an apparent suicide, Sam learns from reviewing his friend's security tapes that he was killed by the Owl's Kiss, a womanly creature from Under the Silver Lake; he concludes that his friend's death is related to the ongoing conspiracy.
By following a series of clues hidden in songs and historic monuments, Sam meets the "Homeless King", a man who brings him to an underground bunker beneath Griffith Park leading into a supermarket. With the help of women he met through his investigation and who turned out to be connected, Sam finds the "Songwriter", the man who wrote all the popular hit songs of the current and past generations. The songwriter confirms that all his songs, as well as most of pop culture, contain hidden messages; he claims that the messages are not for Sam and tries to shoot him, leading Sam to use his idol Kurt Cobain's Fender Mustang to kill him by smashing his head. After sharing his findings with Sevence's daughter Millicent, she gives him a bracelet with strange symbols that she found in her father's office, which she believes to be connected to his disappearance; she is then shot dead in a pose strikingly similar to that of the cover of Sam's favorite Playboy issue.
By combining the bracelet, the prize inside his friend's old cereal box, and a The Legend of Zelda map featured in the first-ever issue of Nintendo Power, Sam is able to find a location that doesn't show on web mapping where he finds a man and three women. The man reveals that through history a selected few wealthy men like himself choose to lock themselves into underground bunkers similar to the one Sam previously discovered in order for their souls to "ascend" to a new blissful realm of existence, taking three "wives" to go with them. He confirms that Sarah and her roommates were Jefferson Sevence's wives, and that their deaths were faked in order for the four of them to ascend. Once they went inside their bunker, it was sealed and cannot be left, but as the process takes months and they can be contacted via videotelephony, Sam gets to talk with Sarah, who confirms that she entered the bunker on her own will. As Sarah leaving the bunker is not an option, the two share an emotional farewell and hang up.
The Homeless King captures Sam, but eventually lets him go, stating that the members of the conspiracy probably won't kill Sam, although he is not certain. When he comes back to his apartment complex, Sam spends the night with a neighbor whose parrot keeps on saying incomprehensible words, although she too does not know what words he is saying. From her balcony, Sam sees his landlord and a police lady entering his apartment to evict him because he didn't pay his rent. The two realize that the wall has been painted with a strange symbol, which Sam knows to be a message left by the conspiracy members to remind him to keep quiet.
- Andrew Garfield as Sam
- Riley Keough as Sarah, Sam's new neighbour who mysteriously disappears.
- Topher Grace as Man at Bar, Sam's friend who helps him with an investigation surrounding the disappearance of Sarah.
- Laura-Leigh as Mae
- Zosia Mamet as Troy
- Jimmi Simpson as Allen
- Patrick Fischler as Comic Fan, a friend of Dan who is obsessed with conspiracy theories
- Luke Baines as Jesus, leader and songwriter of the band Jesus and the Brides of Dracula
- Callie Hernandez as Millicent Sevence
- Riki Lindhome as The Actress
- Don McManus as Man of the End
- Summer Bishil as The Girlfriend
- Grace Van Patten as Balloon Girl
- Sydney Sweeney as Shooting Star
- India Menuez as Shooting Star
- Jeremy Bobb as Songwriter
- David Yow as Homeless King
In May 2016, Andrew Garfield and Dakota Johnson joined the cast of the film, with David Robert Mitchell directing the film, from a screenplay he also wrote. Michael De Luca, Adele Romanski, Jake Weiner, and Chris Bender will serve as producers. In October 2016, Topher Grace and Riley Keough joined the cast of the film, the latter replacing Johnson. In November 2016, Zosia Mamet, Laura-Leigh, Jimmi Simpson, Patrick Fischler, Luke Baines, Callie Hernandez, Riki Lindhome and Don McManus joined the cast. Composer Disasterpeace, who provided the original score for Mitchell's previous film It Follows, returned to write the music.
In May 2016, A24 acquired U.S distribution rights to the film. The film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May 15, 2018. The first country it was released in nationwide was France on August 8, followed by Belgium on August 15.
Under the Silver Lake received mixed reviews from film critics. The film's uniqueness, soundtrack, and cinematography, as well as David Robert Mitchell's direction and Andrew Garfield's performance were praised, but some critics felt that the story was confusing, too cryptic and lacking in answers, and did not have the substance and depth the film was aiming for. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 56% based on 50 reviews, and an average rating of 6.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Under the Silver Lake hits its stride slightly more often than it stumbles, but it's hard not to admire - or be drawn in by - writer-director David Robert Mitchell's ambition." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 59 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "generally mixed reviews".
Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out gave the film a perfect five rating, calling it "Hypnotic, spiraling and deliriously high" and stating "the ambition of Under the Silver Lake is worth cherishing. It will either evaporate into nothingness or cohere into something you’ll want to hug for being so wonderfully weird." Eric Kohn of IndieWire gave a positive review, calling it "a bizarre and outrageous drama grounded in the consistency of Garfield’s astonishment at every turn. [...] Aided by cinematographer Mike Gioloukas’ sunny visuals and a searching Disasterpiece score, the movie becomes a bittersweet ode to wanting answers from an indifferent world overwhelmed by superficial distractions. The homage can be irritating and some of the transitions work better than others across an unwieldy running time — but even the flaws speak to the movie’s beguiling raison d’être. It’s fascinating to watch Mitchell grasp for a bigger picture with the wild ambition of his scruffy protagonist."
Owen Gleiberman of Variety gave a positive review, calling it "a down-the-rabbit-hole movie, at once gripping and baffling, fueled by erotic passion and dread but also by the code-fixated opacity of conspiracy theory. The movie is impeccably shot and staged, with an insanely lush soundtrack that’s like Bernard Herrmann-meets-Angelo-Badalamenti-on-opioids. When it’s over, though, you feel like you’ve seen a meta-mystery made by someone who spent too much time scrawling notes in the margins of his frayed copy of Infinite Jest.A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club gave the film a B rating, stating "Mitchell is taking a big swing with his third feature, trying something not just new but also more unconventional, ambitious, and even potentially off-putting."
Emily Yoshida of Vulture stated about the film's message: "I kept coming back to the women in this extremely boy-driven movie — Mitchell suspects that they’re all on one big conveyor belt to be chewed up and spit out by Hollywood, or if they’re lucky, locked away in the dungeons of the rich and powerful. It’s a rather pedestrian imagining for an otherwise admirably cuckoo film — you keep hoping for Mitchell to land on something weirder, more radical. They’re the wallpaper of the film, set dressing and Greek chorus, and pretty soon the commentary on how Hollywood uses women as decoration outweighs the fact that Mitchell’s just repeating the cycle — albeit with better-than-average outfits. After all the rabbit holes and secret codes and hidden messages, Under the Silver Lake is just sad it’s not getting laid. But if that doesn’t sound like a movie for our time, I don’t know what does." Despite praising Garfield's performance and the film's originality, Bilge Ebiri of The Village Voice gave a negative review, stated "if you’re going to make a postmodern neo-noir sex-conspiracy wannabe-mindfuck set in Los Angeles, it helps to have some personality, or at least a sense of style. [...] Mitchell has interesting ideas, and his actors seem to be having fun, but that’s not enough when the film itself lacks atmosphere, or tension, or emotional engagement."
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