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David Lynch's Inland Empire
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that most teens probably won't want to see this strange, practically "underground" David Lynch movie, despite its cast of relatively well-known actors and the fact that Lynch himself has a certain cachet among teens who like their entertainment weird, grotesque, and cool. Much of it defies standard logic, comprehension, and all Hollywood rules of linear storytelling. Plus, although not all experimental movies are filled with adult, disturbing, and taboo material, this one has its fair share.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Nikki (Laura Dern) is a successful Hollywood actress who has just won the female lead in a major production. Nikki's co-star, Devon (Justin Theroux), is notorious for his on-set love affairs; as rehearsals begin, Nikki's menacing Polish husband warns Devon not to try any funny stuff with her -- or else. Their director (Jeremy Irons) reveals that the movie they're shooting is a remake of a never-finished film that was based on an Eastern-European gypsy folktale -- which was never finished because the lead actors were both murdered. Then Nikki gets an ominous visit from a gypsy-type woman who cautions her in cryptic terms.
Is it any good?
This is quintessential David Lynch -- as in, really weird. Plenty of mainstream filmmakers (Jim Henson and Orson Welles, to name just two) start out doing abstract, weird, experimental productions you'd never associate with their typical Hollywood output. But director David Lynch has never quite left behind his oddball roots in troubling movies like his 1978 breakthrough Eraserhead -- a sort of cinematic bad dream you can't forget. For INLAND EMPIRE, Lynch goes back to that style in a big way (three hours' worth). Even though the movie stars relatively well-known actors whom kids might recognize -- like Lynch regular Dern -- Inland Empire isn't for kids, or even a lot of grownups. The film showcases Lynch at his most unleashed, nerve-jangled, and avant-garde, a mode that his die-hard fans find mesmerizing, but which a lot of unaccustomed viewers will just see as a creepy, borderline-unwatchable puzzle.
At the one-hour point, the movie seems warp into another reality -- maybe the film-within-the-film, or maybe a parallel universe of some sort. The ladylike, mansion-dwelling Nikki has now become Susan, a hard-bitten, foulmouthed woman who lives in a squalid bungalow and openly cheats on her Polish husband, who abuses her. Viewers also see the rabbit people again, a woman planning bloody murder with a screwdriver, Devon reappearing as a guy named Billy, and flashbacks to Eastern Europe in the early 20th century. What's up? Is Nikki taking her role too seriously and having a real affair with Devon? Is she just thinking about it? Or is Lynch playing an even trickier game with the idea of filmmaking as sort of dreaming? Or dreaming as filmmaking? People who are really into Lynch (or writing for serious film journals) will spend years answering those questions -- and if that's your notion of entertainment, enjoy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way the story is told. Is it even clear what the story (or stories) is (or are)? Do you think Lynch could have made the movie simpler and easier to understand and still captured the dreamlike ambiance? Why do you think he chose not to? How is this movie similar to Lynch's other films? How is it different? Why do you think well-known actors would appear in such an unconventional production?
- In theaters: December 15, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: August 14, 2007
- Cast: Jeremy Irons, Justin Theroux, Laura Dern
- Director: David Lynch
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 172 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, some violence and sexuality/nudity.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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