Inland Empire Directed by David Lynch
"It won't be much longer now," says the velveteen-voiced rabbit-suit lady some two and a half hours into Inland Empire. Not much longer?! Yeah, right, rabbit-suit lady! We've heard that endless scratchy ambient track before. The movie taunts its audience in this and other ways. And no matter how much you usually enjoy David Lynch's phallus moving in and out of your brain, by the third taunt you want to believe the rabbit-suit lady. You want her to be telling the truth that it won't be much longer. Because you need to get up and move your legs. People die from sitting in one place for too long. It happens on airplanes every year. It happens to gaming addicts. It's no urban myth.
Even though there are some truly rewarding Lynchian moments over the course of Inland Empire's first 150 minutes, by then you'll more than have had your fill. You're good for at least another year. Maybe two.
Twenty-minutes minutes later, at the 170-minute mark, watching the movie becomes something of an art-film dare contest. And don't pretend you aren't competing. You're afraid to go to the bathroom because then everyone will think you can't take it anymore. They'll think you're like those plebes who grabbed their coats and slinked out after the film took a straight drop off-ramp into Lynch land, never to return. And yet you're determined not to accept this latest taunt from the rabbit-suit lady. "It won't be much longer now?" Fuck you, Lynch. Thank you and fuck you. I'll leave if I want to. I'll just pick up my coat here and...
But you aren't going anywhere. There's a lot of slack in Inland Empire, a punishing amount of indulgent slack, but you aren't going anywhere. Despite the long stretches of drag, the flashes of genius carry it through. And when they don't, three words keep you seated: Harry Dean Stanton. For all you know his Freddie Howard character could reappear at any moment. In Poland. And he's getting old. You can walk out on David Lynch, but show some respect for HDS.
You also don't walk out on a film that after 20 minutes gave you bug-eyed Grace Zabriskie telling Laura Dern the story of how evil was born in the street behind the marketplace. Brutal. Fucking. Murder!
And you do not walk out on Lynch when he's casually tossing off some of the greatest music videos ever made. I'll trade you one dazed Dern stumbling down Hollywood Boulevard to Beck's "Black Tambourine" for any 10 Spike Jones clips.
There's a lot here you don't walk out on, even if you have stuff to do and didn't bank on a three-hour Lynchian freefall. You may be tempted to slip away during the late-middle sag, but don't do it. Wait for the scene where Dern dies in front of a security grate while listening to a homeless junkie Japanese chick talk about her friend in Pamona who wears a blonde wig and has a hole in her vagina wall. Make sure you last until that scene. Then you'll wonder how you could ever have been anxious to leave this film's many worlds, and rush back to your boring life where everything makes such perfect and forgettable sense.
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