capsule reviews: inland empire, the notebook, king of california

Inland Empire: Here’s a film to add to The List. Where Mulholland Drive was a contrived grab-bag of surrealist gimmicks in an attempt to relive the glory days of Twin Peaks, Inland Empire revisits the gritty urban mindscapes first manifested in the severely underrated Lost Highway. “A woman in trouble,” says David Lynch. Yes. And, for all the metaphorical density and layers upon layers of enigmas, a coherent interpretation of the film’s psycho-drama is possible. But more than representing what Lynch can do with a holistic vision - instead of trying to slap on an ending on previously filmed material as he did with Mulholland Drive - Inland Empire is a gorgeous masterpiece of cinematic art. The digital cinematography, the colour saturation, the industrial settings, the soundtrack, the ominous banality of simple rooms, a volcanic performance by Laura Dern: all these make for an experience that burrows deep, deep inside. Inside what? Everything.

The Notebook: With a title sequence so heavily drenched in syrup, like a particularly sentimental Hallmark card or Thomas Kincade painting, it’s no great revelation that the rest of the movie manipulates audiences with shamelessly sugary clichés that give formula a bad name. I liked the performances – who can argue with James Garner and Gena Rowlands? But the way everything is resolved confuses romance with exploitation. Senility and dementia are props intended to jerk tears, but the result is a big jerk-off instead.

King of California: This blip on the radar, a solid indie charmer, packs a nice little punch. Michael Douglas puts on the smart and crazy with charm and plays off Evan Rachel Wood’s maturity and exasperation with panache. It’s a quirky tale, to be sure; a father-daughter bonding movie in the guise of a quixotic – or is it? – treasure hunt. But it’s also poignant, with good writing and direction by first-timer Mike Cahill. The best part; we’re not sure until the very end if Douglas’ character really is tilting at windmills or whether he’s on to something. But better than actually getting an answer to the question is watching two endearing characters try to bridge a gap of years and experience to forge a meaningful relationship.

No comments: