Remember when I said that, if you give David Lynch a free pass to do anything he wants, he's going to do the dirtiest thing ever? I WAS RIGHT! SOLID R! It was so "R" it was aired on Showtime Beyond, the creepy late night version of Showtime. Gross.
DIRECTOR: David Lynch
I guess I get a place to gripe about Twin Peaks as a phenomenon here. Considering that Twin Peaks is mostly a TV show, I kind of put it in the back of my mind in terms of reviewing it outside of the podcast. (If you want to hear me talk about Twin Peaks season one, please listen to the podcast here!) Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me acts as a very strange prequel to the show. My buddy Dan doesn't remember this story. Actually he remembers it very differently than I do, but he made me watch this movie once a long time ago without ever having seen Twin Peaks the television show. He said that, because it was a prequel and that David Lynch is weird anyway, it didn't matter that I had seen the show. This isn't true. If --after I start griping about Twin Peaks at length-- you are still interested in watching this movie, make sure you watch the television show first. It won't make a ton of sense anyway, but at least you'll have a frame of reference for how lost you might be.
Fire Walk With Me was everything I don't exactly love about David Lynch. After the televisions how ended in 1991, a lot of the plot was left in the air. SPOILERS ABOUT THE SHOW: the protagonist of the show was left in a huge cliffhanger, probably never to be resolved. So a movie follow-up to the show that was made the very next year made a lot of sense. That resolution would be given, right? Nope. The movie actually hearkens back the best element of the show, the Laura Palmer murder. I have to give Lynch some points for that. The Laura Palmer murder was way more interesting than the Black Lodge stuff and the Windom Earle nonsense. Going back and filling in the gaps of the Laura Palmer murder makes a bit of sense. It also seems to be a big deal for Sheryl Lee, who was one of the more iconic parts of the show, but got to do very little as the character she was famous for. (Lee, on the show, was also responsible for playing Laura Palmer's cousin. But even that part was short lived and not very well developed.) Seeing who Laura was when she was alive is kind of interesting. The problem is that Laura was a terrible person. Lynch goes out of his way to stress that Laura Palmer did rebellious things. But like a lot of Lynch's portrayals of deviancy and darkness, it is a child's view of debauchery. It may have been shocking to see Laura snort cocaine once or twice, establishing that she is not the goody two-shoes that everyone portrays her as. But Lynch fills the film with her doing drugs. On top of that, ABC reined in Lynch's need to portray sex. On the show, One-Eyed Jack's was the cleanest evil bordello that ever existed, which it kind of needed to be. Lynch tastelessly shows Laura Palmer naked and sexed up as often as he can, and that's just sad. Like I discussed with yesterday's Batman: The Killing Joke, Palmer is simply used sexually to show her weakness. This is not a story about Laura Palmer fighting the demons, only to lose after an honorable battle. This is a tale of victimization at the hands of men as she avoids taking control of any aspect of her life. She uses sex to get people to like her and to tune out society. Blecch.
The movie is kind of unnecessary, but does have a sense of officialness (officiality? Officialdom? I'm really sleepy. Auto correct says "officialism", but that seems morally wrong.) It does cement a lot of the abstract elements of the Twin Peaks Laura Palmer murder. The issue with that is that it also has to change the characters to make that happen. And I'm not just making a snide remark about Lara Flynn Boyle being recast. I mean that there are fundamental changes to the characters to make the movie work. Listen, I gripe quite a bit about the Twin Peaks television show and one of my major concerns is that the characters are inconsistent and weird for weird's sake. But I also understand that the quirkiness of the show is also one of its selling points. I get why people like the TV show; it's just not for me. Fire Walk With Me kind of corrupts that whole feeling. I just started on the reboot series yesterday and that has the same problem. The fun weirdness is gone and the demonic weirdness has taken over. The tone of Fire Walk With Me is super dark. I get the vibe that Lynch enjoys torturing his characters and he didn't really have the opportunity to do that with the network watching over him. I can see why he was so adamant to have complete creative control when he was given the Showtime deal. But, like I mentioned before, Lynch works better with a little power exerted over him. He gets to be a bit more creative. So now I don't know what I want. The thing I hated most about the television show is that it was so concerned with filling 22 episodes in the second season that it relied on hammering out the same jokes about the C-list cast. Fire Walk With Me focuses almost exclusively on the main plot of how Laura Palmer died and I just found it kind of gross. I admit, I was kind of excited to watch it in the first half. Perhaps it is Lynch's perversion that turned me off for the second half. Laura Palmer becomes a terrible character. One point I kept bringing up is that she is going crazy from seeing all these supernatural hallucinations. The show has established that these images that she is seeing are real, but from her perspective, they would just be hallucinations. Dale Cooper took a long time to realize that the Black Lodge was not just the by-product of dreams. How would Laura Palmer know as much? So what does she do when she is hallucinating absolutely horrible things? She does MORE drugs. I have no sympathy for you at that point, Laura. Drugs are dumb.
The first third of the movie is also extremely baffling. I think I mentioned in another review that I was once on the worst quest ever. This stupid quest involved seeing every Kiefer Sutherland movie that was ever made. I so wanted to be a hipster, guys. In my mind, that was hilarious. Well, Kiefer was in this movie and I don't really get the involvement with him and the story. I read on IMDB that a movie was cut together from all of the deleted scenes from Fire Walk With Me, but I really have no urge to see that. Anchorman already fooled me with that offer and I will not be made fool of again! But there's this whole story of another murder that involved Bob that Chris Isaacs and Kiefer Sutherland have to solve. They go missing and that's the end of that plot line. Then Lynch goes super-Lynchian and starts having David Bowie appear without a lick of context. People show up in weird masks that never made their appearance on the show and I am just left scratching my head. I'm all for weird if there is purpose. Maybe I'm just stuck into a safe place when it comes to my film watching, but Fire Walk With Me just is an example of how goofy crap doesn't always really work. Please, don't make me watch Eraserhead again. Or Inland Empire. Those movies make Fire Walk With Me look normal. I just want a frame of reference for some of this stuff. I guess it is the same thing that makes me angry about putting in "the cool scene". I feel like Lynch believes he's a genius because everyone always calls him such, thus his cool scenes always make it into the film. I honestly believe that Lynch has fights with anyone who questions his choices. He seems like a crochety guy to begin with and he probably really believes that his artistic vision is the most important thing. I just want to know that someone out there is telling him that maybe he should look twice at scenes. But he is constantly affirmed for his weirdness. I like the Black Lodge stuff in moderation. But the more that Twin Peaks visits the Black Lodge, the less it really all matters. It's just like the Borg in Voyager. (I honestly think that might be the second time I've made that comparison on this sight.) Keep it a bit of a mystery and we're all friends. Entrench me in the Black Lodge and it becomes an annoying art piece. (Art pieces aren't annoying. There are, however, annoying art pieces.)
Twin Peaks will probably never be my jam, but I'm getting a thrill out of knowing that I'll have seen all that there is to see about this cult phenomenon. Maybe a part of me likes dogging these movies because my film friends love Lynch so much, but most of me genuinely gets annoyed with him. I feel like I want to like them, but my bar will always be slightly too high for someone who is so lauded for his genius. Who knows? I still have a bunch of reboot episodes to get through. Maybe my opinion will change. The worst part is that I'm probably such a hypocrite that I'll defend Twin Peaks and / or David Lynch at a party given the chance. I do prefer weird to safe, but I also have expectations in my weird soup.
SPOILER: Also, Bobby shoots a cop dead. That seems contradictory to his character in the show.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.