Andrew Garfield in Under the Silver Lake

Courtesy of A24

Review: Under the Sil­ver Lake

Director David Robert Mitchell’s surreal LA fantasy is probably beloved by the same people who bang on about the intellectual merits of Infinite Jest.

RAT­ING: 2.5÷5

It would be tempt­ing to call David Robert Mitchell’s film Under the Sil­ver Lake an incel noir if it weren’t for the fact that, some­what inex­plic­a­bly, its cen­tral slack­er-ston­er char­ac­ter is irre­sistible to women. Call it sci­ence-fic­tion, then, or fan­ta­sy: a shag­gy-dog-sto­ry in which more than one dumb, shag­gable woman is depict­ed bark­ing like a dog, it is nom­i­nal­ly a movie about what might hap­pen if a Very Online man from Red­dit found him­self air-dropped into a Lynch film, and, more accu­rate­ly, one about the dif­fi­cul­ty of cri­tiquing Hollywood’s objec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women by lin­ger­ing on innu­mer­able tits and ass­es, but iron­i­cal­ly.

Its cen­tral char­ac­ter, Sam, is played capa­bly by Andrew Garfield as a leer­ing, com­ic-read­ing, video-game-play­ing voyeur whose obses­sive inter­est in con­spir­a­cies and num­ber the­o­ries pays off when his hot neigh­bour ends up dis­ap­pear­ing in the mid­dle of the night. The world he occu­pies (a hip­ster­ish LA scene far less wacky than the film pre­sumes it is) looks gor­geous, is pop­u­lat­ed by good-look­ing peo­ple, and feels rough­ly five years out of date.

Under the Sil­ver Lake is per­haps most frus­trat­ing for the fact that it is not a total fail­ure: it has in some moments the same free­wheel­ing, stretched-elas­tic vibe as Paul Thomas Anderson’s per­fect and sur­re­al Inher­ent Vice, and a tremen­dous score that feels authen­ti­cal­ly like some­thing from the gold­en age of noir.

It Fol­lows, Mitchell’s last film, proved that he is capa­ble of bril­liance and inven­tive­ness as a writer-direc­tor. It proved, too, that he knows how to focus his atten­tion on the sto­ry of a girl – to focus the atten­tion of his cam­era on her body in a swim­suit, even – and not fuck it up. By the time Sam has uncov­ered the cod­ed mys­ter­ies of Los Ange­les, we have seen enough slow-talk­ing, half-clothed babes to fill a cast­ing call by Michael Bay, and by the time the movie’s gen­uine­ly inter­est­ing class satire has unfold­ed, it’s evi­dent that Mitchell is more inter­est­ed in skew­er­ing cer­tain social inequal­i­ties than oth­ers. It’s unclear whether we’re meant to see the nerdy white guy with binoc­u­lars as the symp­tom or the dis­ease. His sleazy out­look is explained in the 11th hour by the fact his girl­friend dumped him, which might be a cred­i­ble excuse, if it weren’t the same one typ­i­cal­ly employed by MRAs who shoot up schools.

Under the Sil­ver Lake is released April 19

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