First things first. I cannot properly review that movie. The best I can do is deconstruct it and call b.s. on David Lynch whenever he deserves it.
Here is my interpretation:
There is no answer. David Lynch purposefully constructed a labyrinthian mystery with no solution. He threw everything at the wall to see what would stick. I have a feeling if this had continued as a TV series, Lynch might have put in the effort to construct an actual mystery like Twin Peaks, but the situation is what it is, and ABC still sucks a decade later. What interests Lynch aren't the answers. Good thing because there aren't any. What he's interested in is getting the viewer to come up with them themselves.
Most people's interpretations are that the first two-thirds of the movie are the dream, and the last third the harsh, sucky reality. I am not as big of a David Lynchophile as I should be for a Peaks Freak (still haven't seen Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart, Inland Empire, or Eraserhead; hate me) but one thing I've gotten from what I HAVE seen, is that the dude isn't actually cynical. I do not think the movie is as simple as Diane waking up in a sucky reality and that the rest was b.s.. That doesn't ring true to me.
Besides, a LOT of Universe A deals with other characters outside of Betty and Rita, so that hints that that is real because a universe that ONLY focuses on one person's perspective, is more likely to be the dream.
But it also doesn't ring true that the last third is the dream either. Because there are plenty of clues of Diane waking up, including the Cowboy stating exactly that. Both stories have an equal shot of being the real one. Which is it?
Watching this again, I kind of think they both are. I'm just going to take what Lynch showed me at face value, and straight up say that this is an actual science fiction movie, and what I saw was the end of one universe and the beginning of another. And the Cowboy is God. The blue box of infinite blackness is the key to this interpretation. It also does not diminish Betty and Rita's grief at the performance near the end. They are crying a reason. The universe is about to go away and split them apart. And the box made them aware of this.
But can I just take a moment to say how much I actually dislike the last third of the picture? It has a super hot sex scene between Laura Harring and Naomi Watts, but once that's done, I kind of think the movie is pretty much over from a narrative standpoint. All the new universe does is piggyback on the original's back. If it was giving us new concepts as cool as the Cowboy itself I'd tolerate it, but it is clearly the B universe and Lynch treats it as such.
But the A universe gives me a lot to chew on. Let's talk about some of that.
Chad Everett is the luckiest guy in the universe for getting to make out with Naomi Watts like that. And yes, I know he's currently dead. It's still true.
The movie employed quite a few future Bad Robot actors. Justin Theroux and Melissa George were on Alias, and Mark Pelligrino and Patrick Fishler had stints on Lost. ABC already was pretty much dipping into the same talent pool at this point.
Patrick Fishler's scene talking about going to the cafe he dreamed was scary as heck, but I also didn't believe it. If I had a recurring dream about a horrible man at a specific place I had never been, I certainly wouldn't ever go there, and I can't think of anybody who would. But as unlikely as the premise was, I'll give props for Lynch constructing a great "horrible man". "He" was worse than anything I could have pictured.
The scene of Betty getting off at the airport was exceedingly badly written and performed. I just want to point it out. As great as Lynch is, he's not always the best at minutia.
Case in point: the Expresso joke. It doesn't work at all. Lynch oftentimes can wring great humor out of obsessing about a stupid object or food, but this doesn't work because an Expresso is too modern of a creation to actually be funny. The jokes about pie and coffee in Twin Peaks were much more relatable because they were more universal. I know the "Little. Pine. Wee-sal," wasn't actually Lynch's idea, but that's about how funny the expresso is.
That smiling old couple frightened me, and even moreso at the end. I'm not sleeping that off.
The Cowboy is amazing. What I especially love about him is that as creepy and menacing as he is to the viewer, Adam thinks he's a complete joke, and treats him as such. The expression on Theroux's face when he learned he had a meeting with a dude called "The Cowboy" was probably the funniest thing in the movie. I love the Cowboy's warning: If Adam does good, he'll see him once more. If he does bad, he'll see him twice more. That is the perfect kind of riddle that Lynch can construct that fires up the imagination, but probably didn't take a lot out of him to write. He has a gift for stuff like that, and if it took him longer than five minutes to come up with that line, I'd be surprised. And yet what it can possibly mean will be in my thoughts for days.
The scene of Mark Pellgrino accidentally shooting a woman through the wall while botching a murder staged as a suicide was something Tarantino would do. That's Marvin in Pulp Fiction. Lynch does NOT get enough credit for the relatability of his humor. His projects are much more accessible to the average viewer than his weird reputations suggests. Everybody gets that scene. Everybody gets why that's funny. Lynch is great at stuff like that.
Somehow Billy Ray Cyrus playing a dirtbag does not seem to be too much of a stretch.
I think one scene that really had me thinking was the scene where Adam comes home and upon finding his wife in bed with Billy Ray Joe Dirt, takes her jewelry to the garage and pours pink paint over it. That was fabulous, but it raised many questions for me. Is Adam too dumb to realize he isn't actually destroying the jewerly by doing that? His wife washes it off before the paints dries, and it's fine. Jewelry's whole selling point is that it's sturdy. All his actions do is cover him in ridiculous pink paint for the rest of the universe. About that pink paint: what exactly was in Adam's house that he was painting in that color, and why did he need a whole bucket of it? This would normally be considered a plot hole from any other director. But because it is Lynch, the notion is funny.
I think another laughable thing for me (which Lynch might NOT have intended to be funny) was Rita opening her purse and discovering a ridiculously obscene amount of money (all in hundred dollar bills no less!). As a mystery goes, that's a great idea. As far as the narrative we have seen, not so much. That amount of cash on anyone would make the person carrying it extremely nervous. I mean sweating bullets. And that isn't Rita in her first scene at all. She actually seems a bit more petulant than somebody carrying that amount of money around with two guys she doesn't seem to trust would ever be, especially since she isn't apparently armed, and is dressed so skimpy. So there are two theories here: 1. Rita doesn't know that the purse contains the money. 2. Lynch is not interested in an actual human reaction in that moment, and just wants another curveball to throw at the viewer. I'd like to think it's the first scenario, but I don't. I think this was a rare case of Lynch actually letting me down. He's usually much better at character moments than that.
Naomi Watts was great in both roles, but she shines as Betty. There is a great empathy to the character that I have an hard time picturing another actress pulling off in the exact same scenario. I don't buy the idea of somebody going along with the idea of a stranger in their house, but because Watts makes Betty so empathetic, it makes sense for the character and is fascinating to watch. And it turns into a love story so gradually, and yet still so unexpectedly, that there is no question I'm Team Universe A.
I love most of this movie, but once the box spins, Vincent D'Offrio has just been killed in Full Metal Jacket. We can all go home now. But I won't hold that against most of the movie. ****1/2.