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Film Reviews Under the Silver Lake, the long-delayed Andrew Garfield mystery, drowns in its own preening self-indulgence

Grace Van Patten and Andrew Garfield in David Robert Mitchell's new movie Under the Silver Lake.

Courtesy of A24

Under the Silver Lake

Written and directed by: David Robert Mitchell

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough and Topher Grace

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Classification: R; 139 minutes

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Midway through Under the Silver Lake, David Robert Mitchell’s long-delayed follow-up to his 2014 horror breakthrough It Follows, the film’s 33-year-old unemployed hero Sam (Andrew Garfield) spends a good two or three minutes staring at a stack of old Playboy magazines, masturbating. After trying to concentrate on one particular cover girl, Sam gives up this attempt at self-gratification, as frustrated with his inability to focus as he is exhausted by the entire exercise in extended wankery. I feel you, man.

By attempting to craft a slick mélange of neo-noir, dark slacker comedy and puzzle-driven treasure hunt, Mitchell has produced a film that is so preoccupied with turning itself on that it forgets to focus on the desires or basic needs of its audience. The plot is shaggy (something about Sam looking for a cute neighbour who moves out of her apartment in the middle of the night), the characters either loathsome or window-dressing (every single woman is an object to be found or a treasure to be prized, with at least one literally locked away in a vault) and the style resting somewhere between brooding Los Angeles mystery and self-indulgent music video (do you like women’s butts? Because Mitchell sure does).

There is an occasional sense of self-awareness that this is all pointless and silly (“I don’t know the answers,” Sam says at one point, to which another character replies, “Who does? Nobody does”), but 139 minutes is a long time for a film to forgo even delayed gratification.

Under the Silver Lake is available April 19 digitally and on VOD.

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