There are mystery films that make elegant sense, like "Double Indemnity;" there are mystery films that make a kind of crazy sense, like "Memento;" and there are mystery films that make no sense at all, like David Lynch's new film "Mulholland Drive." And yet "Mulholland Drive" is still a lot of fun to watch, as long as you leave your left brain at home.
What the film does is make a kind of Lynchian sense - the Lynch of "Twin Peaks," in which ultimately nothing made sense either, but, for a while anyway, it was fun to watch. Here we open with a limousine driving through the darkness of Mulholland Drive. The car stops and the stunning black-haired woman in the back (Laura Harring) is told to get out. As she does, the car is rear-ended by another car, and the woman stumbles away from the accident and down the hill to end up in a vacant Hollywood apartment. Cut to young would-be Hollywood ingenue Betty Elms (Naomi Watts), arriving at LAX and just in from Deep River, Ontario to try her luck as an actress in Hollywood, staying at that same apartment, which conveniently belongs to her aunt, who is off shooting a film in Canada. Betty discovers the amnesiac woman taking a shower, and when she asks her name the woman looks at a poster for "Gilda" and says she's Rita. So far so good; Lynch has us in the palm of his hand, and now the two women set off on a film-noirish search for Rita's real identity
Meanwhile, young director Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) is having problems of his own casting the female lead in his new film. At a studio meeting he's told by two mysterious men to hire a woman named Betty, who will show up for her screen test tomorrow. Furious, he heads home only to find his wife in bed with the pool guy.
Meanwhile again, Betty gets to audition for another film, and in a wonderful scene she shows great acting chops by playing a sexy kitten to her film father's best friend. But no more of that. We later see the auditions for Adam's film, which is maybe the most bizarre World War II musical drama ever shown on any screen.
But again, so much for that. In their search Betty and the mysterious Rita come across the body of a woman named Diane Selwyn in another apartment across town, and later find themselves in a way-after-hours theatre where the Roy Orbison ballad 'Crying' is being sung in Spanish, a moment that makes both Rita and Betty cry. Oh, and did I tell you that by now Rita and Betty are lovers?
At this point the film takes leave of anything resembling logic, because Rita is now the femme fatale Camilla Rhodes and Betty is now the back-from-the-dead Diane Selwyn. There's more, including a hit man whose quick, clean hit turns into a bloody mess; the Cowboy, who looks like Tom Mix and meets with Adam in a corral at the top of Beechwood Canyon; the musical auditions for Adam's film; the mysterious blue box with its triangular key; the waitress at Winkie's with the two first names; and a lot more that my poor brain couldn't handle. It all is good fun, but in the best Jewish-mother tradition, we have to ask: Would it hurt so much if it made a little sense?