Mulholland Dr. (2001)

10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Perfect movie that can be enjoyed over and over again

Can be frustrating to those who don't know what is going on

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Mulholland Dr.

Studio:  Les Films Alain Sarde

Genre(s):  Drama/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  May 16, 2001 (Cannes Film Festival)/October 12, 2001 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R


No one dreams they are average.

Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) is headed to Hollywood.  With plans to make it big, she’s got a nice new home in her aunt’s apartment complex and auditions lined up.  Betty finds an amnesiac (Laura Harring) calling herself Rita in the apartment and sets out to solve the mystery of Rita’s past.  With assassins out to get her and a massive movie cover-up, Betty and Rita learn finding the truth might be deadly…but the reality of the situation could be worse.

Written and directed by David Lynch, Mulholland Dr. (sometimes written out as Mulholland Drive) began as a potential TV series pilot.  When the pilot was rejected, Lynch transformed it into a full length feature.  The movie was released to positive reviews and Lynch won Best Director at Cannes where the film premiered.  The movie topped many “Best Of” lists for 2001 and has developed a cult following.  A remastered version of the film was released on Criterion (Criterion #779).


You really need some moisturizer

I saw Mulholland Dr. in the theater and instantly loved it.  There was much debate on what was going on in the film, but something in the movie connected with me and I understood it completely (or as completely as you can understand any Lynch movie).  With nightmarish themes of the dangers and allure of Hollywood and the general concept of what happens when we dream, Mulholland Dr. gets it right.  Due to the type of film Mulholland Dr. is, a ******spoiler alert***** is active for the rest of the review.


The dream almost breaks down

I’ve actually had dreams like this movie.  The format of the script is that the first portion of the movie is the dream and the last portion of the film is reality.  I can’t see how this would have worked as a TV series (and the “big reveal” at the end might have really angered viewers), but you can see elements of this in some of the branching narratives.  There are a lot of characters in Mulholland Dr. but it makes sense with the fluidity of dreams.

The dreamer is Diane Selwyn who is perfectly played by Naomi Watts.  Diane is a hack actress who feels she’s never been given a fair shot and living in the shadows of her lover Camilla Rhodes (Laura Harring) who has climbed her way to the top and enjoys flaunting it in Diane’s face.  In reality, Diane can’t take it and has Camilla killed which causes her to be driven to suicide by her guilt and despair.  In the dream, Camilla (now Rita) needs Diane (now Betty).  Betty could be the greatest actress ever (proven by her audition), but conspiracy and the browbeaten director (played by Justin Theroux who took Camilla from Diane in reality) is keeping her from being the actress she knows she can be.  Diane dreams that the people she hired to kill Camilla are idiots and that the hitman couldn’t possibly kill her…but in dreams, the dreamer is crafting the story.



This leads to the great visuals of Mulholland Dr. From its very title, the movie is a “Hollywood” story and utilizes L.A. to a great extent.  The average diner where Diane orders the hit becomes a place of horror with a monster lurking behind it (in a terrifying homeless woman).  Lynch utilizes the nightmare themes of his story with the visuals and makes a great movie…and the drifting camera in many scenes (generally where Diane is an observer) gives a third person feel that I know I often have in dreams.

It is this reality incorporating nature of Mulholland Dr. that makes it great.  Much like a real dream, Diane mixes and matches “characters” she’s met in reality and forces them into her dreams.  A glimpse of a man in a cowboy hat at a party becomes a threat.  Justin Theroux’s mother becomes her landlady and even her dialogue matches dialogue from reality.  Diane’s is trying to trick her brain into thinking the dream is reality but the reality keeps bubbling up.


It’s all an illusion

Club Silencio is the culmination of all of this.  It is emphasized over and over again that it has all been recorded and that what they are seeing isn’t reality.  It is an illusion of what is real.  The dream breaks down and reality takes over.  I’d argue that the Spanish performance of “Crying” in the movie is one of the great moments of cinema in recent years with the characters starting to realize what is going on and Diana trying to hold onto the dream and Camilla…it gets me every time.

Mulholland Dr. is a perfect film, but I definitely can understand why people wouldn’t like it.  It isn’t an easy film and if you don’t have surreal dreams with fluidity, it can be hard to break down what is going on.  The movie has rapidly rose in my “all-time favorite” movie, and I still can find new things each time I watch.  Watch Mulholland Dr…and if you don’t like it:  Silencio!

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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