Directed by David Lynch
Starring Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux
Deep inside this mysterious film lurks a simple, linear plot. Star-struck Betty (Naomi Watts) moves into a stunning but borrowed Hollywood apartment, replete with courtyard, oaken doors, and a gruff but lovable landlady named Coco (Ann Miller). She’s shocked to find a bloody woman in the shower (Laura Harring), a woman with nothing to her name but a futuristic blue key and a stack of C-notes. She decides to call herself Rita. Betty helps Rita relocate her identity right after auditioning for a movie. The audition is a success, she picks up some mysterious Mafia backing, works with a hot-headed and fast rising director Adam (Justin Theroux). Betty and Rita have a torrid affair until Rita announces marriage to Adam. Dumped and disgusted, Betty arranges a hit and then shoots herself. How could this possibly confuse an alert film buff? Well, there’s more than one Betty. The young naive Betty drifts out of the film about 2/3 though, the hardened, successful Betty appears about 1/3 through, one of them commits the suicide near the middle, and the template that lines all this up is Rita’s life. Everyone lives in a normal space-time continuum except Betty. She’s controlled by the weird homeless guy in the alley behind Winkie’s Diner. He’s got that mysterious blue aluminum box with her soul in it. Two keys open it – that space age looking thing that unlocks Betty’s future, and the beat up apartment key locks out her out of her past.
But enough off that – lets invent symbolism. Nothing is as it seems, and three or four viewings still leave things unclear, unsaid, and un-understood. The homeless guy? Somehow, he is the writer Lynch – creepy, barely seen, yet with a complete power over these characters. Black-garbed Adam is the director Lynch – public, noticeable, cuckolded by the pool guy and splattered with pink paint. No matter how grim things are internally, he still Makes a Statement, at least on Melrose. Betty sheds her small town innocence and takes on the decadent ennui of stardom, but the transition is unseen and unfelt until it’s to late to turn back. The catalyst? Erotic and exotic Rita – seducing the innocent only to drop her in the most hurtful way possible. Perhaps that’s us, the audience. When Rita and Betty take a 2 AM trip to a seedy performance art piece called Club Silencio, most of the supporting charters come on stage singing, only to turn into tape loops. It’s the film making process from the inside – editors and directors create a seamless reality out of unreal parts. You don’t see the process on screen, only the result – this is the view the editor and director have, the merge between fantasy and reality. Betty hires a bumbling hit man who shoots an old friend for a black book of who knows what. As he sets up the body to look like suicide, he wings a woman in the next office, takes out a maintenance man, and sets the building on fire by shooting a vacuum cleaner. And he gets away – a real pro. I think he represents the financing process.
If you don’t like my interpretation, please make your own. I admit there were times the thought “I must have missed something” flew by, but it IS a Lynch film. Laughter flickered across the audience at unexpected moments, and I found myself the only person laughing more than once. Was it the ultra-violent car crash to open? The torrid sex between Betty and her amnesiac lesbian lover? The quite confidence of “The Cowboy,” directing the director’s actions? All of this, and less. When the screen went black, small groups of strangers formed up, asking one another “What did THAT mean?” It means what we want it to, not one thing more or one thing less. I loved it.