Under the Silver Lake ★★½

"Who needs witches and werewolves anymore, right? We have computers." ~ Comic Fan

This comedic neo-noir mystery was produced, written and directed by David Robert Mitchell as his follow-up to 2014's surprise indie hit, "It Follows." The venue is Silver Lake in East Los Angeles, where a 33-year-old slacker named Sam (Andrew Garfield) is within five days of being evicted from his second-floor courtyard apartment for non-payment of rent.

In his free time, which is plentiful, Sam likes to sit on the veranda of his apartment with binoculars and observe his neighbors, especially the Bird Woman (Wendy Vanden Heuvel) who is frequently topless on her own veranda. During one such gazing session, Sam sees a new neighbor by the pool. But he is interrupted by a knock at the door. It's a wannabe actress friend (Riki Lindhome) who has dropped by with sushi in exchange for some afternoon sex.

We see on the news, in magazines and graffiti, references to "The Dog Killer," who some say is responsible for a rash of crimes, murders and disappearances in the Silver Lake community. Sam buys a graphic magazine by local artist Comic Fan (Patrick Fischler), who claims to know who this Dog Killer is and much more.

Then, back at the apartment complex, Sam bumps into new neighbor Sarah (Riley Keough). Despite catching him ogling her, she likes the way he treats her dog Coca-Cola. She invites Sam inside for a drink and to get high while watching an old movie, 1953's "How To Marry A Millionaire."

The return of Sarah's roommates interrupts what could quickly have become lovemaking. Sam departs reluctantly with a promise that they will meet the next day. But the next morning, every piece of furniture has been removed from the girls' apartment. Sarah and her roomies are gone. That puts Sam into sleuth mode, and he breaks into the vacated unit hoping to find a trace of where she has gone.

A guy in a pirate cap and eye patch; Sarah's hotpants "friends" acting odd and renting a boat on Silver Lake; a visit to a club called Purgatory; Sam's investigation grows exceedingly strange. Driving his soon-to-be-repossessed Mustang hardtop around town, he picks up clues: hobo symbols; the number 751; a connection to the rock group "Jesus and the Brides of Dracula." A dancer called Balloon Girl (Grace Van Patten) and an actress/call girl dubbed Shooting Star #1 (Bobbi Salvör Menuez) help Sam find the path he must follow to the Homeless King (David Yow). After that, we are in the Twilight Zone.

Mitchell might be riffing on Hitchcock while trying to emulate David Lynch here, with a touch of the Coens. If so, he fails, IMO. I never got into Sam's spiritless character. What's more, the way women are portrayed is distasteful if not outright misogynistic. And it's easy to take potshots at the wealthy and the wealth-obsessed, but to make us care requires more work than Mitchell seems willing to put in. Although this received a Palme d'Or nomination at Cannes, I failed to be impressed. See it or don't, I say it's quite forgettable.

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