18 May 2003 | bob the moo
One of Lynch's most accessible and optimistic films
Jeffrey Beaumont returns to his small town home when his father has an accident and ends up in hospital. A quiet walk home changes his perceptions forever when he discovers a human ear in the long grass. He reports it to the police but decides to make some enquires himself with the help of the officer's daughter Sandy. The trail begins with the mysterious Dorothy Vallens and drags Jeffrey into the unseen underworld of Frank Booth.
For the majority of people, you either like Lynch or you dislike him. Personally I like the majority of his work, I love the sense of normalcy that he can create and slowly change to reveal a darkness that is worryingly close to the surface. That is the case here, beginning with a blue sky, white picket fence vision of small town America the camera drops into the grass to see a torrent of bugs scrambling just under the surface. In the same way the film follows Jeffrey's journey into the underbelly of his home town.
In some ways this is one of the easiest Lynch films to get into here the darkness is not a wide world of demons as in Fire Walk With Me, but is one man and his associates who can be overcome. The darkness is therefore accessible to all but is laced with just enough weirdness to disturb my favourite scene is where Frank takes Jeffrey to see Ben, it is just a little unsettling. In hand with this is the fact that it is easily one of his most optimistic films, the good angel in Jeffrey's life is a strong character and the ending is one of certainty rather than open to interpretation that robin has about a clear a meaning as it can.
MacLachlan is well used as Jeffrey. He is wide eyed and innocent even when being sucked into the underworld. Dern plays `all-American' well but doesn't have the complexity of MacLachlan in the script. Rossellini has a challenging role and carries it off quite well I didn't fully understand her character but I don't know if that was my fault or hers. Of course the film belongs to Hopper who is terrifyingly unstable. Without a doubt he is a monster and you never are left in any doubt as to his state of mind. For an example of his work here watch the scene where Stockwell (in a wonderfully weird cameo) sings and Hopper clearly falls to pieces.
Although I prefer Fire Walk With Me, I do think that this is Lynch's best film. It is weird without going totally overboard and it allows us to sink into the underworld gradually without sudden falls. Hopper controls every scene he is in, but the meeting of wholesome and weird is perfectly delivered and is trademark Lynch.