Inland Empire (2006)

DVD Cover (Rhino Films)
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Overall Rating 68%
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Ranked #1,829
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An actress's perception of reality becomes increasingly distorted as she finds herself falling for her co-star in a remake of an unfinished Polish production that was supposedly cursed. --TMDb
Review by bluemeanie
Added: March 05, 2007
The time is 5:22 AM, and I have just returned from a day trip to Nashville, Tennessee. The point of this six hour, round-trip, sojourn into the heartland - David Lynch's "Inland Empire". Playing at the historic Belcourt Theatre, it seemed like the perfect time for a road trip, and the perfect time to experience one of cinema's most unusual filmmakers in all his glory. "Inland Empire" is like nothing you've ever seen - and I don't care if you're the biggest Lynch-Head out there - it's nothing like any other David Lynch film you've ever seen, though it might seem that way. You're going to think it feels like "Lost Highway" and you're going to think it feels like "Mulholland Drive", but it really doesn't feel like either - it has a mood and a style all its own. David Lynch has been the most innovative and bizarre filmmaker working in Hollywood for a long time now, and "Inland Empire" might be his most experimental project to date. Having just watched "Tideland", an utter disaster and failure from a filmmaker who tries to hard to be different - it was nice to watch a film from a director who doesn't have to try - he's as different as they come.

At just under three hours in length, "Inland Empire" is a nightmare of epic proportions. What is it about? Your guess is as good as mine, but here's the simple storyline. Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) is a struggling actress looking to reclaim her former glory. She lands her dream role, the part of Susan Blue in a film co-starring Devon Berk (Justin Theroux) and directed by Kingsley Stewart (Jeremy Irons). As she gets deeper and deeper into the filming, her real life starts mixing and mingling with the life of the character she is portraying, and before too long, she just can't seem to tell them apart. The film is told out of sequence, out of order, out of time and out of everything else you can imagine. There is no rational order to it. We watch as Nikki weaves in and out of various dreams and nightmares, meeting various characters and witnessing unspeakable images. In classic Lynch style, we get everything from a room of rabbits acting out a sitcom to a room full of Polish men who change shapes and ages at will. There are several potential explanations in regards to the plot of this film, but guessing at them would not do justice to the work itself, which is supposed to be confusing. Like "Mulholland Drive", it works better if you just don't understand it.

And think of how difficult it must be to perform in a film like "Inland Empire". Laura Dern turns in one of the truly great female acting performances of the past decade as a woman caught inside her own mind - taking us through a range of emotions that would have been lost on just about every other actress. David Lynch and Laura Dern have a fine relationship; they know how the other works and they can make some beautiful music together. Other than Dern, there's not much in terms of other performances, though the entire cast delivers. Harry Dean Stanton is rather humorous in his role; Jeremy Irons dives into the role of the director with gusto and over-the-top zeal; Justin Theroux takes the Balthazar Getty role from "Lost Highway", technically; and you can even seen the likes of William H. Macy and Mary Steenburgen pop up in very brief cameos. And listen to the voices of the rabbits and see if you can make out who they are before the credits. Back to Dern - this whole film rests on her performance - on her ability to make us believe everything we are seeing and invest in her character. She knows what's happening, even though we certainly do not.

As previously mentioned, the David Lynch style is in full effect here. From the opening sequence, you know what you're in for, and it was nice to watch "Inland Empire" with a theatre filled with nothing but Lynch-Heads. One might ponder the need for actors in rabbit costumes. Not if they know David Lynch. One might ponder the need for a slow speaking Japanese girl delivering a very odd monologue. Not if they know David Lynch. When you enter Lynch's world, nothing is how it should be and you can only hope to make it out alive. David Lynch also enters into some new territory here. With his directing style, he ventures out into the world of digital - "Inland Empire" was shot entirely on digital, and very low-budget, which was intentional. David Lynch shoots this like an amateur filmmaker - but an amateur filmmaker with the creativity of David Lynch. He also adds a musical number - something we don't usually see from the mad genius. Who would expect a show-stopping rendition of "The Loco-Motion" in the middle of a Lynch film? Then again, you must be a fool to be shocked when you see it. After all, it's...you got it...David Lynch.

So, believe me when I say - "Inland Empire" is a Lynch-Head's dream come true. It's true to his fans, it's true to his style - and it seems neither pretentious nor self-serving. If nothing else, this film is a chronicle of Laura Dern's incredible acting skills. Why don't we see her in more? She's better than 80% of the actresses working steadily in Hollywood today. She looks better, she acts better and she delivers more efficiently. My suggestion to all of you is to re-invest in some older Lynch stock, like "Eraserhead" and "Blue Velvet" - those will prepare you for "Inland Empire" a little bit better. If you're not a Lynch fan, you'll likely walk out before "Inland Empire" has reached its conclusion. You're not going to get it. But, you're not going to get it for a different reason than a Lynch fan doesn't get it. We don't expect to get it. We expect two to three hours of mind bending entertainment from one of the greatest independent filmmakers in the world. We expect the bizarre and we expect the shocking. We expect the unexpected. That's what you have to take with you to a David Lynch film. Anything less would be uncivilized.

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