23 September 2022

52 for '22: Lost Highway

MovieLost Highway (1997)
Method: Netflix DVD

Why Did I watch this?

This was again one of those things where I pretend to be a David Lynch fan but haven't actually seen too many of his movies. It's like I absorb the general culture of weirdness above what he's actually doing. I forget why I selected this exact film, I think I just checked out the general premises of a bunch of his films and this caught my eye.

What Did I know ahead of time?

And yes, I totally forgot what that premise was leading into this and I also had no idea who was in the cast. Bill Pullman! Wow! Loved him in True Lies (1994). Anyway, I knew it was Lynch and not only that, but peak late 90s Lynch so it was bound to be weird, but it started off so casually! Well, suffice it to say I didn't know much. Let's get into this thing.

How Was It?

Man....man I don't know. It really does border on incomprehensible and not always in a "oh, you just don't get it" sort of way. This movie starts off with an interesting story of marriage dysfunction between Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette, adds a layer of creepiness with someone secretly videotaping them and then jumps off the fucking deep end.

Pullman is framed (?) for murder, although it seemed like he did commit it, or at least committed it in some kind of fugue state? And goes to prison. While in prison he body swaps? I guess with some weird kid with weird parents, which takes up the middle 70 minutes of the movie. See, we get the first forty minutes following Pullman, then we just swap stories. I kept trying to track the throughline of themes, and it's the barest thread. Something about identity or fugue states or just trying to grapple with maintaining a moral compass amidst murky chaos.

Anyway, Balthazar Getty gets tied up with this porno mobster and Patricia Arquette's sister, but maybe the same person, reality goes on a bender, he has literally four separate sex scenes, goes to this creepy cabin and then transforms back into Bill Pullman who kills the porno mobster, whose death started the movie.

So what does it all mean? I don't know, I'm not really here to unpack the plot, and it's kind of foolish to do so. It's in that zone that's either brilliant or a huge misfire. I dug the minimalist design, the never-ending darkness, and the general disdain for a boring life here. Like, no one has pictures on any walls, all boring suburban furniture, like they're trapped in this prototypical domesticity that's blown apart by the surreal. It's really such a subtle way, though. It's not like psychedelic and colorful, just off and unnerving. It's maybe the most en media res movie ever made, there is no rope here. That's admirable, but also apt to lose the audience. I get the vibe that David "It's a Friday once again!" Lynch doesn't list that amongst his daily concerns.

When I was a kid I really only knew Bill Pullman from Spaceballs (1987) and thought he was just a comedy actor. Like, I didn't understand that actors could do different genres of movies and thought he was like a Dan Aykroyd or Bill Murray. I always thought it was a gag that they cast him as the President in Independence Day (1996). His acting is fine here, he doesn't do too much but scowl and play bad saxophone.

Patricia Arquette is very Patricia Arquette here, playing kind of a breathy, flighty bimbo, which I also didn't know she could play. I've really just seen her as moms and in Little Nicky (1999). She's a genuine babe here! Her character (or characters?) add depth as the movie goes on as she's clearly up to more than what we think she is, and she has this real sinister bent underneath her veneer of sexy fright.

Balthazar Getty looks like if Charlie Sheen fucked Legolas. That's all I really kept thinking about. And Robert Loggia also from Independence Day shows up here! What a fun reunion. How has his rant against tailgating not gone viral? Probably because no one has seen Lost Highway. Shit should be legendary.

This is the last film role for both Richard Pryor and Robert Blake! Robert Blake apparently made all of his characters' costume and mannerism decisions, which makes it even more baffling. He's also a murderer! Pryor's appearance is bizarre, he's in like one scene and Getty walks in and sees him just chilling there. You can tell the Parkinson's was getting at him even at this point but that energy still tries to shine through.

I dug a lot of this. It is a truly odd experience when Gary Busey is one of the most normal parts of your movie. I don't think you can unearth the plot. Characters literally change who they are, create different stories, but also maybe it's the same story? They are in two places at once and maybe two characters at once? You need to just let go and give yourself into the vibe here, which is noir and wacky.

Check out more 52 for '22 right here!

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