After a 5 year hiatus, David Lynch returns with Inland Empire, a work so surreal it makes his 2001 masterpiece, Mulholland Drive, look like a linear and straightforward narrative. A film so intense, that it develops a mind of its own. Going deeper and deeper into the nightmare, the Lynchian comeback blurs the line between what’s real and what’s not.
Inland Empire, like its counterpart Mulholland Drive is a story about many things; a washed up actress landing an unlikely role that could shoot her back to the top again; a woman held captive in an anonymous room, while her captor psychologically torments her; a prostitute looking to escape her life of misery, yearning for a “blue tomorrow” if you will; but above all, Inland Empire is a dark, warped and ambiguous take on the search for the American Dream, specifically Hollywood.
Laura Dern plays Nikki Grace, whose new role in a movie sets her on a nightmarish journey into worlds within worlds. As she slowly and subtly starts to lose her grip on reality, the effect transfers over to the viewer too; something Lynch has become a master of through the years. It’s a career-defining performance for Dern, acting as our guide and our window into the strange odyssey that entails.
Jeremy Irons and Lynch-regular and star of The Leftovers television series, Justin Theroux, join the fray and churn out wonderful performances. Theroux plays Devon Berk, an overconfident and charismatic actor who joins Dern’s Nikki Grace in the lead. Some surprising cameos are featured too, including Harry Dean Stanton, William H. Macy and even White Chicks (2004) star Terry Crews.
Irons plays Kingsley Stewart, the director of On High in Blue Tomorrows; a film with source material that’s shrouded in controversy over the mysterious deaths of the two lead actors in a previously unfinished effort – a German film entitled 47. Kingsley confesses his film is a remake of said film and informs both Nikki and Devon on the urban legend surrounding the incomplete product. This moment serves as a turning point in Inland Empire, with bizarre and creepy elements incrementally seeping in soon after.
Disorienting at times and heavily indulgent at three hours long, Inland Empire is liable to turn off some viewers — but for the patient moviegoer, this is an experience to behold. A summation of Lynch’s eccentric and iconic legacy. Helming directing, screenwriting, producing, cinematography and film editing duties — this is truly Lynch’s brainchild, authentically so.
Stars Laura Dern and Justin Theroux have both said they have no idea what the film is about.