Under the Silver Lake: One star for this exhaustingly boring film

Review: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough and Topher Grace ‘star’ in this queasy follow-up

Under the Silver Lake: Deadeningly lifeless

Film Title: Under the Silver Lake

Director: David Robert Mitchell

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Patrick Fischler, Grace Van Patten, Callie Hernandez, Zosia Mamet, Jeremy Bobb

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 139 min

Thu, Mar 14, 2019, 06:00


Listen here, young filmmakers. There’s every chance you have some cherished project filling up the largest of your bottom drawers. Leave it there.

If you manoeuvre your way to a position of influence after an early genre success just forget about that surreal 184-page epic concerning Jack Kerouac’s journey to Neptune with Omar Khayyám. You saw what became of Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales. Do we need to discuss Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain? Better just make another horror film. Yeah?

Then again, these are exactly the sorts of films – baggy, allusive, overreaching – that a small cadre of cranks insist on declaring the best of the decade. Not just cranks. More than a few people I respect have found something to like in David Robert Mitchell’s exhaustingly boring follow-up to It Follows.

They’re welcome to it. Under the Silver Lake is a classic of this loosely defined genre: endless, pretentious, a bit sexy, a bit queasy. All its deficiencies can – if you are eager to excuse – be put down to a surfeit of ambition. They said the same about Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.

Within the first half hour we have already endured enough unconnected cinematic allusions to generate a lifetime of Wayans brothers films. As in those broad comedies the references serve no purpose other than to remind you of better movies. Andrew Garfield plays an unemployed loser who spies on his neighbour (like in Rear Window) and then talks to her in the pool (as she acts out Marilyn Monroe’s moves from the unfinished Something’s Got to Give) before going on an addled wild-goose chase throughout Los Angeles (like Elliot Gould in The Long Goodbye).

Angular glamour

Riley Keough plays the neighbour and while she’s there the picture retains a degree of angular glamour. Her disappearance allows Garfield’s ruffled loser free access to an accumulation of anarchic experience that might merit the description Pynchonesque if Thomas Pynchon had more cheese in his skull than brain matter.

What irritates most about this supposed phantasmagoria – aside from the icky, possibly ironic focus on exposed female flesh – is its deadeningly lifeless familiarity. We’ve been hearing about southern Californian cult life for more than 50 years. William Burroughs worked through the film’s paranoid conspiracies a decade before Mitchell was born. The supposed subversion of noir tropes is no more sophisticated than that in the recent, already legendarily terrible The Happytime Murders.

If some movie bro’ doesn’t tell you its a masterpiece before the month’s up then I’ll eat my own foot. 

Opens on March 15th