21 March 2004 | bob the moo
A typical Lynch film - I'll leave it to you to decide if that's a good thing or bad thing
Almost two years after beating a man to death in a fight, Sailor is released from prison and restarts his relationship with Lula - much to the disapproval of Lula's mother. When Sailor and Lula break parole and head for California, she hires a hitman after them to kill Sailor. Unaware of this, Sailor and Lula continue west, encountering all manner of weird and wonderful people on their way.
I first tried to watch this when it first came on television, but I was watching it with family and felt uncomfortable with the nudity and turned it off. Years later I have seen many other Lynch films, have loved Twin Peaks and looked forward to a chance to watch it. I sat to watch it aware of the basic plot and that it was to be full of references to Wizard of Oz, but I wasn't prepared for the biggest surprise - that it just wasn't that good a film. I am not adverse to Lynch's universe of weird characters but I don't like it when I get the feeling that he is simply being weird for the sake of it.
Certainly that seemed to be the case here: the plot is so loose and meaningless to almost be pointless even as a frame for weirdness - which is what it really is. The references to Wizard of Oz are all there but, rather than being part of the film, they are stuck in with clumsiness all the way - they seem like a gimmicky afterthought rather than a carefully scripted part of the film. The plot is more a collected of the usual Lynchian weirdness and gore. Sometimes this works really well when it is framed within an engaging film, but here the characters, images and action are all just left drifting in a relatively empty film. It's a shame because I really like many of Lynch's films and was looking forward to this, but even I am forced to admit that this film just isn't that good.
The cast features many of Lynch regulars, but many seem to be lost due to the fact that they haven't got the material to do their stuff within. Cage is really quite good despite his simple character. Dern is given more to do but comes across rather hammy with it - her character should have had the emotional buy in to the film but she can't deliver it. Turns from Dafoe, Stanton, Rossellini, Fenn, Glover and others are all good but they exist as free floating weird characters rather than part of the film in the way I would have liked.
Overall this is a typical Lynchian film in it's imagery, weird characters, strange story and violent/sexual content. Usually these would be good things in this context but here they aren't put together very well creating a film that, although worth seeing and weirdly fascinating, is not actually that good a film.