Under the Silver Lake review – too self-indulgent for a parody

A self-styled detective embarks on a quest to find his missing neighbour in a ponderous spoof of pop culture-obsessed man-boys

According to its dictionary definition, satire is supposed to use “humour, irony, exaggeration and ridicule” to “expose and criticise people’s stupidity or vices”. The third feature from David Robert Mitchell, ​about a hipster nerd who tries to solve a murder mystery using cryptic clues lifted from cereal packets and zines, could be read as an exposé of “incel” culture, a winking send-up of mouth-breathing man-children unhealthily obsessed with pop culture, unable to hold down jobs or relationships because they’re too busy playing vintage video games and masturbating over comic books.

Mitchell does use humour, soundtracking a scene in an underground club to Cornershop’s 1997 track Brimful of Asha’ (“It’s old music night at the Crypt”), and I suppose it’s meant to be ironic that Sam (Andrew Garfield) spies on his topless neighbour with a pair of binoculars (his friend uses a drone), given Hollywood’s history of sexualised female bodies. The film’s occasional, atonal lurches into bloody violence might be described as moments of exaggeration and it’s certainly an act of ridicule when thirtysomething Sam is sprayed by a skunk while wandering LA’s Eastside neighbourhood in the first act, the bad smell following him for the remainder of the protracted runtime (an agonisingly slow two hours and 20 minutes).

We’re encouraged to smirk at Sam’s pathetic attempts to play detective and figure out what happened to disappeared neighbour Sarah (Riley Keough, wearing a Marilyn Monroe-style beauty mark and white, two-piece swimming costume), but the film takes his quest seriously. It is too infatuated with its own cryptic mythology, too fawning in its references to LA noirs (Kiss Me Deadly, The Long Goodbye, LA Confidential and Mulholland Drive) and too self-indulgent to be praised as parody, let alone an effective critique of its boring protagonist.

Watch the trailer for Under the Silver Lake.

Contributor

Simran Hans

The GuardianTramp

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