The Empire Strikes Back
Inland Empire: A movie about David Lynch's obsessions, Inland Empire includes familiar tropes such as a movie within the movie and the notion of Hollywood as haunted house. But nothing in Lynch's work is truly familiar. Reality is first breached when a ditsy Polish gypsy traipses into the disconcertingly empty Hollywood mansion that belongs to actress Nikki Grace (Laura Dern). Spooking the star with her wolfsbane accent and aggressive prophecies, she casts a spell of weirdness that lasts throughout the movie. Suddenly it's tomorrow and Nikki has the role she covets, working with an overeager director (Jeremy Irons) and acting opposite young rapscallion Devon (Justin Theroux), who's been touted by a nasty TV gossip as the biggest womanizer in Hollywood. An adulterous affair seems overdetermined, particularly as that's the premise of On High in Blue Tomorrows, the unlikely title of the movie that Nikki and Devon are making. Script inevitably merges with life. Something or someone is lurking in the recesses of the set—and, as Nikki's character fissures, it turns out to be her. Given its nonexistent narrative rhythms, Inland Empire is an experience. Either you give yourself over to it or you don't. And, if you do, don't miss the end credits. —J. Hoberman
10 Items or Less: The only person getting off on 10 Items or Less is director Brad Silberling, who wrote the script before heading into the hard-core Hollywood gangbang of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Clocking in at a scant, interminable 82 minutes, 10 Items or Less tags along with an actor, named Actor and played by Morgan Freeman, as he slums his way through a working-class wonderland, prepping for his upcoming role. There he is instantly and improbably captivated by Scarlet (Paz Vega), the saucy Spanish checkout girl. Circumstances (aka screenplay schematics) leave him in the lurch and her in need of advice, so they clamber into a crappy hatchback and head off in the direction of Life Lessons. The film goes from oblivious to oblivion when it pulls into the perkiest car wash since Car Wash. Polishing rag in hand and Ritmo Latino bumping on the soundtrack, Freeman frolics in solidarity with a crew of blissed-out immigrants. Mucho gracias, kindly celebrity! Class-consciousness is hardly to be expected from the dude who brought Casper to the big screen, and if nothing else, 10 Items or Less is a case study in cluelessness. —Nathan Lee
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