is one of those movies I've seen a million times. I was the right age at the right time, I guess. It's easy, when thinking about the film, to get distracted by the flashier parts: the slangy dialogue, the big Vince Vaughn breakthrough performance, the specificity (and/or datedness) of the Swing revival of the mid-90s world the characters live in. But there's much more to the film than that. It's arguably the first of the latest wave of romantic comedies, in which the hero(s) discover that monogamy is the key to happiness (as opposed to many a comedy of the earlier generation, where promiscuity, free love, and divorce are celebrated). These films reassert the genre's traditional endorsement of the nuclear couple, often from a newly post-feminist perspective (an element that's notably lacking in Swingers
, with its narrative focus on a trio of young men).
Beyond that, the film is definitive in its depiction of kids who build their entire worlds out of images they think are "cool". It's no coincidence the characters are actors; everything about their life is constructed: their obsession with Rat Pack iconography and discussions and subsequent reenactments of shots from Goodfellas
and Reservoir Dogs
are the most obvious reflections of this, but most of the film's other dialogue also revolves around roles and how to play them. The film captures, more than any I know, the process by which young people, regardless of their own pop culture obsessions, are constantly remaking and re-imagining themselves, trying on various personae until they find one that works for them, something that feels natural, that doesn't
feel like acting. This is why the film can never be dated: the references change, but the people stay the same.
The hero of Lost Highway
pulls off a similar feat, constructing at least half of a movie out of the images of his youth (films noirs and cars movies of the 50 and 60s, etc). I wrote extensively about Lost Highway
, and this theory of it in particular, on my blog
a couple of years ago, and what I said then holds up on a second viewing of the film. It's a fascinating, trashy piece of mind-blowing pulp. And it's hard to think of anyone besides Lynch who could pull something like this off (unlike Swingers
, which is brilliant in a more conventional way).
It's still the only David Lynch film I've really liked, though after this positive experience I haven't gotten around to seeing any more of his movies (I've had Mulholland Drive
here from netflix at least twice and sent it back without watching it.) I really should watch some more.
This is a tough decision, and I'm pretty sure I'd vote for either of these to be resurrected, but Lost Highway
is the more exciting, daring film and it's going to move on.