Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

David Lynch's unique style and direction make this movie enjoyable, though it's certainly a flawed one. People who haven't seen the show either won't understand at all what's going on or find what they do understand to be unsatisfying, and people who have seen the show will probably be disappointed by some of the things from the show's central appeal that are missing, and might find the material that is there a bit too well-worn to be really compelling. It was a project that was probably doomed to fail, though it was nice to visit the town that made the show such a joy one more time.

Fire Walk with Me is a prequel to the series that shows the initial investigation of Teresa Banks' murder and the events of the last few days of Laura Palmer's life, while also filling in a little bit about Agent Cooper's introduction to the case and what happened after the series finale. It begins with another pair of agents investigating Teresa's death, and after one disappears (the other is played by an enjoyably quirky Kiefer Sutherland), Cooper is put on the case. Before long though he hits a dead end, and the focus shifts to Laura's story, which takes up most of the movie. Here we see a whole lot more of the depravity and weird mumbo jumbo that made up the circumstances around her death, the former of which we mostly already knew about and the latter of which still doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Laura does drugs, ignores her friends, prostitutes herself, and becomes increasingly erratic as she learns more about the strange man who's been tormenting her. Eventually things spiral out of control as we see what really happened the night before the series starts.

None of the details are too unexpected though, and at times Fire Walk with Me feels less like a movie filling in gaps and more like a mythology-heavy flashback episode that the show never ended up really needing. Lots of characters return, mostly played by the same actors, although too often little is done with them besides reminding the viewer of little things. Hey, remember how Laura did Meals on Wheels with the diner? Or how Bobby scored coke for her? Now you get to watch it. I don't object to seeing the world of Twin Peaks expanded, I just wish that the movie had more of a point to it. I also wish it was a bit closer to the tone of the show. Twin Peaks had adult themes but was acceptable enough for prime time television in the early 90s, while the movie really earns its R rating with swearing, violence, and nudity. This would be fine, but the dark aspects of the film end up taking over the whole story, and the other side of the series, the goofy, charming side, is pretty much entirely abandoned after a certain point.

So I think the film is worth watching if you really loved the show, and would like to see more about the key events that shaped it in the beginning. It's actually a reasonably effective horror movie, an element that the series touched on but never really embraced. It doesn't really go out of its way to terrify you, but there's lots of spooky and creepy imagery, especially revolving around all the mystical stuff, and the last act of the movie in particular is brutal and uncomfortable to watch. Lynch has a handle on film making even when the material isn't top notch, and in saying goodbye to the show he loved but didn't completely deliver on, he made a reasonably entertaining movie. I know a lot of people really hated it, but if you go in knowing the limitations and what you're in for, I think it's worth seeing.

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