Under the Silver Lake ★★½

In The Long Goodbye, Phillip Marlowe wakes up from a long slumber a transplant of a 40s/50s suit within hippie Los Angeles. In Inherent Vice, Doc's hippie death rattle lifestyle rubs up against the new corporate America that's silently taken over Los Angeles via real estate. In David Robert Mitchell's sprawling mess of a movie, Andrew Garfield's hipster detective doesn't butt up against anything except massive conspiracies because Mitchell seems completely oblivious that the shift in time is what made those neo-noirs really work. You had detectives clinging to the end of their subculture while everyone else has changed around them.

Mitchell seems unaware that hipsterdom has been replaced with wokedom and every underboob and underbutt shot in Under the Silver Lake suffers from that; what made the movies above classic was the rub against time. Here, women parade endlessly for the male gaze as if no discussions on the subject had ever happened. It's bizarre that Silver Lake never acknowledges this. It's also bizarre because I've lived in the exact area that the film ridicules for eight years, and yes, that area was exactly as shown here circa 2008-2016. There is a new self-awareness, activism, and modesty that's taken over the East Side of Los Angeles and while there might be an underbutt walking into Lassen's you'll get an uppercut if the gaze goes there. That rebuttal of now is so sorely lacking in Silver Lake. There's no awareness of time passing, just body parts passing. (I suppose the frightful view of the homeless is modern as we keep voting to spend $ to house the homeless but no one wants these “poltergeists” next door to them so it keeps getting worse and worse in this city.)

Outside of this complete lack of awareness or confrontation of some of the most lingering male gaze moments ever committed to film (I'm not saying you can't have that, no not at all, but something to show comment on it, awareness of it, is kind of necessary, here it's all bubble gum and subliminal messaging), Under the Silver Lake is maddeningly average. It thinks its immensely clever. And while yes, it does get some chuckles from the places it goes, it's never anything more than a big bloated and bootylicious episode of Scooby Doo (It Follows redux there).

A man drops a drone in front of a woman's house to watch her undress and the distance between acting opposite the femme fatale is always a computer screen, a father's old Playboy Magazine, or her death (sigh). And the only woman who'll enter your home is either a succubus or a foolish wannabe actress, I guess; no living women live up to the hype in this movie. For women being in the know of a larger conspiracy involving other worlds, they are never given any agency other than following a man or taking a man to the place where he'll discover what they already know. And what we discover about the male filmmaker's quest for knowledge is that it's a hollow inspection of gatekeepers, both keepers of popular culture and keepers of wealth. And that the answers are ultimately very easy, clean and singular. Hope you have nostalgia for Nintendo and cereal!

Masturbatory isn't a term that I'll use much about film but it's wholly appropriate here. And while I'll defend Southland Tales despite that film's jerk off tendencies, because they serve a purpose of commenting on the governmental and cultural disillusionment of the time, I cannot defend anything in Under the Silver Lake other than Andrew Garfield's willingness to show his butt, knowing if he didn't the woke torches would burn even brighter. Both Mitchell and Kelly got to make immense Los Angeles conspiracy movies after one indie hit. And Mitchell's film shows why we need to let women and minorities have as large of runways as the follow-up film that these hipster boys get after one cultural moment. That's the true cultural gatekeeper, boy-o. 

This whole thing reeks of meninist couture—fitting for all the skunk jokes.

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