Actor Spotlight: Blue Velvet
I get it. I get Blue Velvet on every level. I really do. Of course, that doesn’t give it a pass.
I will start by saying that this, our third film in the Dennis Hopper spotlight, has one of the best Hopper performances I’ve seen to date. His Frank Booth was so unbelievably nasty and vile. A villain you truly love to hate. Hopper delivers each and every venom filled line with gusto and precision. And when he needs to be a sniveling, drug addled cry baby, he pulls that off without a hitch. Perfect casting on the part of director David Lynch.
Honestly, the film is well cast all around. Isabella Rossellini is perfect as the tortured mother of a kidnapped child. Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern both fit as the doe eyed, youngsters who are caught up in events beyond their comprehension. In fact, MacLachlan and Dern were so convincing that at certain points I had to question whether it was bad acting or that the characters were genuinely that naive. As the film progresses, it becomes plainly obvious that gullibility was the culprit.
The story starts rather inauspiciously, with the father of MacLachlan’s Jeffrey collapsing on his lawn, from what looks to be an insect bite, but nothing is ever made clear. The tone is set from that point on, with little clarity in the film, causing the viewer to make many intuitive leaps as to what is going on. As I stated previously, I got it, but it took some work to get it. More work than I typically like putting into my viewing experience.
The plot thickens, thins, progresses and regresses, as Jeffrey decides to become a soft-boiled detective, after finding a human ear in a field in town. From there we are introduced to Rossellini’s Dorothy, who belts out the title song at least four times in the film, much to the dismay of Hopper’s Frank. Paths are crossed and double crossed, while events unfold in a rather strange manner. There are twists and turns, some that accentuate the story and some that are there simply for show.
Now I’m someone who is all for bizarreness for the sake of bizarreness. If a director wants to put a unicorn on a Pegasus in downtown Phoenix during the world series of caber tossing I’m right there with them. But odd as this may sound, it does have to have some type of payoff. Blue Velvet has the bizarreness down pat, but very little seems to have any real payoff. It certainly makes you think, but it doesn’t have the payoff like a Memento or Fight Club.
With half the payoff of other films in this genre and a story that ebbs and flows all throughout, Blue Velvet is a meager selection, with some viewable credibility. The performances are all great, so Lynch shows he is adept at managing his actors, but the weakness is in the screenplay, which is the chink in Lynch’s armor. Worth watching once, but it won’t get a second viewing out of me.