Posts Tagged ‘Laura Dern’

Can you ever really go back home again?

Two weeks ago, David Lynch and Mark Frost detonated what we thought television was capable of — perhaps even what reality itself was all about, depending on who you ask — in part eight of Twin Peaks 2017/Twin Peaks : The Return/Twin Peaks season three with as much undeniable and unalterable (fuck, is that a word?) force as the atomic explosion they took us so deeply into the heart of. I was bummed we didn’t get a new segment last week, but actually appreciated having the extra time to process all we had witnessed, and now the question becomes one of whether or not you can put the genie back in the bottle. We don’t want or need every part to have the sheer nuclear impact of that last one, of course — much of its power lies in its singularity — but now that we’ve seen the “other side,” so to speak, what’s to be made of this one?

As luck — or, okay, fair enough, Lynch’s skill — would have it, quite a lot, thankfully, for while part nine is punctuated throughout with any number of small and slow “character moments” of the sort to which we’re becoming accustomed to, if not outright spoiled by (Lynch’s Gordon Cole longingly eyeing the cigarette being enjoyed by Laura Dern’s Diane Evans being a particular favorite), we’re also treated to so much sheer plot progression (executed with a kind of quiet grace that only looks and feels laconic while actually bearing down with the force of a goddamn locomotive) that, once again, a couple of viewings, at the least, are going to be necessary in order to take it all in.

In short order, then : Evil Coop (portrayed, as ever, by soon-to-be-Emmy-winner-if-there’s-any-justice-in-this-world Kyle MacLachlan) is up and running again and makes his way to “The Farm,” where we meet Tim Roth for the first time and Jennifer Jason Leigh for the second. He’s got business that needs attending to with Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) back at the Silver Mustang Casino in Vegas, so we’ll see what that’s all about, and speaking of Sin City, Dougie (MacLachlan again) and Janey-E Jones (Naomi Watts) are still in the process of being cut loose from police questioning after Dougie’s attempted assassination at the hands of the diminutive Ike “The Spike” (Christophe Zajac-Denek). There’s some terrific interaction between Dougie’s boss, Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray) and the trio of Detectives Fusco (David Koechner, Eric Edelstein, and Larry Clarke), and not too long after they, and the rest of Las Vegas Metro, get to play heroes by finally bringing Ike to justice in a fleabag North Strip (by the look of it) motel room.

Concurrent with all this, Cole, Agents Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell) and Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer), along with Diane and Cole, find their return flight to Philadelphia interrupted by a spur-of-the-moment course change to, no shock here, Buckhorn, South Dakota, where we learn that mild-mannered high school principal Bill Hastings (Matthew Lillard) , still under lock, key, and the watchful eyes of Detective Dave Macklay (Brent Briscoe) and the Pentagon’s Lt. Knox (Adele Rene) is actually a blogger (poor sap) with a keen interest in what he calls “The Zone,” which seems to be shorthand for the “world between worlds” that we’ve explored in parts three and eight. He knows Major Garland Briggs — hell, he’s met the man — and what that all means is surely going to be one of the key mysteries explored in the nine short weeks we have left with this, the most remarkable piece of work ever crafted for American television screens, but for now it looks very much like Lynch and Frost have pulled another of their trademark “you didn’t think this shit was connected, but check this out!” twists, and I’ll bet you anything that the glass box in New York ties right into this particular plot thread, as well.

Meanwhile, in the town of Twin Peaks proper, while Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and Andy (Harry Goaz) shop for furniture online, Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster), Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) and Deputy (it still sounds weird to say this) Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) are bestowed with a gift from the aforementioned late (any way you slice it) Major, and when they’re given both it and as much of an explanation as she can muster from Bobby’s mom, Betty (Charlotte Stewart), we witness arguably the most powerful and affecting performance we’ve seen in this series so far, with the possible exception of Catherine E. Coulson’s as-brief-as-it-was-brave reprisal of her role as the Log Lady. Stewart’s straight-up incredible in her few moments of screen time here, Lynch directs the scene with superb humanistic understatement that really allows her to shine, and when she breaks her soliloquy with “should we have that coffee now?,” well — everyone feels both relieved and, somehow, not to sound too grandiose, transported. It’s beautiful stuff, and manages to outdo even Lillard’s harrowing breakdown under questioning that comes later in the epis — shit, there I go again, part.

Oh, and while all that’s going, Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) and his assistant, Beverly (Ashley Judd) still can’t find the source of the mysterious “hum” in the corner of her office (but its power definitely seems to be drawing them inexorably closer together), and brother Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) is just plain out of his gourd on weed that absolutely has to be laced with something stronger. After all, I’ve been pretty damn high in my time, but I’ve never had my foot talk to me, much less tell me it wasn’t my foot at all.

Further questions abound (why is Johnny Horne running head-first into a wall? Who are the two — sorry to use the term, but — meth skanks hanging out in the Roadhouse at the end?), but between the transcendent moments from Stewart and Lillard and the usual beyond-stong work from MacLachlan, Dern, and company, it has to be said that Lynch did the one thing he could, indeed the one thing he absolutely needed to do, in order to get all of our heads “back in the game” this week : trusted his cast to hit it out of the park. And they did.

So, to return to our question from the outset : can you ever really go home again? It seems you can. Our eyes are open wider, the scope of our vision expanded, our expectations amped up to a degree that no TV show has ever even attempted, much less actually been able, to follow through on, but yes. This is familiar territory. We know the world of Twin Peaks as well as we ever have.

Which is to say, of course, not at all.

 

Right off the top of my head : what’s Andy doing wearing a Rolex?

Oh, sure, there are many larger and more important things to ponder after watching part seven of Daid Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks 2017/Twin Peaks : The Return/Twin Peaks season three than Harry Goaz’ timepiece, but when you see a small-town deputy who probably earns 40 grand a year if he’s lucky riding around with $10,000 on his wrist, it sticks out.

Although, in fairness, so does the following : Laura Dern’s Diane telling everyone she comes into contact with “fuck you” at least once (and is it just me or does she have a special level of enmity for Chrysta Bell’s Tammy Preston?); Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly) getting so stoned he can’t find his car; Janey-E (Naomi Watts) dealing with the cops every bit as effectively as she dealt with the crooks last week; Tom Sizemore going from a threating manner of lurking to a sulking one; Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) getting one up on his boss, Gordon Cole (Lynch) by making him say “please”; that mysterious figure from the Buckhorn, South Dakota jail cell waaaaaayyy back in week one graduating to the role of the “Man Behind Winkie’s” figure from Mulholland Drive; Ernie Hudson making a return appearance as the mystery surrounding the dead body of probably-Major-Garland-Briggs deepens; the “lost” pages of Laura Palmer’s diary that Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) found in part six directly quoting Heather Graham’s lines from Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me; the diminutive assassin we met seven short days ago coming after Dougie/Coop (Kyle MacLachlan) with a gun and being dealt with pretty easily (and, it’s gotta be said, roughly) thanks to some timely intervention from the “evolved” Arm; Walter Olkewicz playing yet another member of the apparently-endless Renault clan — I could go on like this for some time, because this episode was packed to the goddamn rafters.

Instead, I’d like to take a minute to talk about some of the truly sublime moments on offer tonight : the Skype call between Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster) and Doc Hayward (the late Warren Frost); Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) obviously plotting when he’s going to make his move on his new assistant, Beverly (Ashely Judd, who you knew we would be seeing more of — and we might even be seeing more than that, given that she’s hiding a few secrets of her own); some poor schmuck sweeping the floor at the Roadhouse for nearly two minutes while “Green Onions” plays overhead; Lynch himself getting the first “damn good cup of coffee” line of the series; Norma (Peggy Lipton) holding court at the Double R as the end credits roll. If Twin Peaks fandom could send a video love letter to itself, would it look much different than any of that? Are scenes like this not exactly what we’d all been hoping for — only maybe with Michael Ontkean in there somewhere?

The best thing about it all, though, is that we’re getting so much more than just a rose-tinted serving of nostalgia with this new series — instances like those just quickly catalogued are lovely, to be sure, but they’re the heart of the show, not the backbone. The backbone is the dirt “Evil Coop” is holding over the warden that’s juicy enough to get him sprung; the fourth, still-missing, page from Laura’s diary; the investigative legwork going on in Twin Peaks, Buckhorn, and Washington, D.C.; the “spiritual finger”; the house in Argentina now owned by, literally, a girl from Ipanema; “It wasn’t Bob — I know who it was.”

The questions, the mysteries, the unknown and perhaps unknowable — that’s what Twin Peaks has always been about, and still is. More than ever, I’d venture to say. And for this viewer, at any rate, one of those big mysteries is still what the hell Andy is doing with such a fancy watch.

 

There are those who claim that in today’s visually-saturated, sonically-bombarded, information-overloaded world, good, old-fashioned words have lost not only, in many cases, their meaning, but also their power — and yet, with nothing more than one word, David Lynch and Mark Frost stopped Twin Peaks fandom as a whole dead in its tracks tonight.

That word? “Diane.”

And here’s the damndest thing of all : it wasn’t uttered into a micro-cassette recorder by Kyle MacLachlan’s Dale Cooper, it came from the mouth of Miguel Ferrer’s Albert Rosenfied, and it was addressed to an actual, living, breathing human being — specifically, Laura Dern. But now we know. Now we know who Coop was talking to for all those years, and all those years ago. And something tells me — and I’m telling you in turn — that’s going to have big repercussions.

Oh, and other things happened in part six of Twin Peaks 2017/Twin Peaks : The ReturnTwin Peaks season three, as well — in fact, it was an uncharacteristically brisk, dense, and harrowing segment, punctuated by the unspeakable tragedy of a child mowed down by a speeding truck and the hyper-violent outburst of a maniacal contract-killer midget. It re-introduced beloved figures like Carl from the Fat Trout Trailer Park (Harry Dean Stanton only gets more awesome with each passing year, doesn’t he?), dropped Patrick Fischler and Tom Sizemore back into the mix for no apparent (as yet) reason, shed an all-too-human light on the nature of the relationship between Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster) and his wife, Doris (Candy Clark) that perfectly explains both of their demeanors, offered up a genuinely touching moment between Dougie/Dale and his boy, Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon), showcased Deputy Hawk (Michaeal Horse) doing his best detective work to date, took a minute to breathe a bit more character depth into Shelly Johnson (Madchen Amick), proved that Norma must offer way better wages and benefits than the average cafe owner since the Double R has apparently kept the exact same staff in place for 25 years, and gave Naomi Watts’ Janey-E Jones a hitehrto-undisclosed backbone that was definitely worth the price of admission alone. Yup, a whole lot went down tonight — and in the best Twin Peaks fashion, not all of it was entirely explicable.

Take, for isntance, Dougie’s idiot-savant abilities manifesting themselves in the form of child-like scrawling all over his “case files.” couldn’t make head or tail of any of it, but it sure seemed to impress the hell out of his boss. And where Harry Dean Stanton (who gets the best line of the night with “I’ve been smoking for 75 years — every fuckin’ day”) goes, mysterious power lines seem to follow, as the departure of the dead child’s soul/spirit/essence into the electrical grid perfectly recalls a similar “cut-away” shot from Carl in Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me. And I’m thinking those numbers on the telephone pole probably mean something, too.

And since we’re on the subject of speculation, I think this is as good a point as any for me to officially advance a theory I first floated on facebook a few days back : Eamon Farren’s drug-fueled psychopath? Who can now add “kid-killer” to his resume? The minute I heard he was part of the Horne clan, it hit me : he’s the child of Audrey and “Evil Coop.” And he’s got a lot of his daddy in him. Come on — you know it makes sense.

Fuck me, but there’s a lot to process after this one, isn’t there? We’re officially 1/3 of the way through at this point, and the only thing I can say I know with absolute, lead-pipe-cinch certainty is that John Pirruccello’s Deputy Chad is the biggest d-bag on the planet — but in my experience, that’s almost always the case with grown men named “Chad,” anyway.

At any rate, his is not the name we’re going to keep coming back to again and again as we re-play this episode — sorry, “part” — through our minds, is it? Nope. We finally know who you are, Diane — now, who are you?

 

Perhaps the most interesting thing about following the “career arc” of cartoonist/screenwriter Daniel Clowes is noticing the subtle shift that his work has taken toward the cautiously optimistic over the years. I’ve been a major fan of his for about as long as he’s been at it, and there’s not a single of his “major” works that I don’t consider to be flat-out masterful, but the outright nihilism of Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron shifted a few degrees toward the sympathetic unease of Ghost World , which then gave way to the happy-but-ultimately doomed resolution of David Boring, and then the bleak everyday hopelessness of Ice Haven and the quiet loss of a largely illusory past in The Death-Ray. One way or another, though, the message always seemed to be a variation on the idea that we were all destined to be slowly and silently crushed by the weight of silent but ever-present cosmic forces beyond our very comprehension, much less our control, and while later, post-Eightball graphic novels/novellas such as WilsonMister Wonderful, and the recently-published Patience don’t necessarily contradict that premise, they do each offer something of a suggestion that there’s a way to at least peacefully give in to, perhaps even co-exist with, this awareness of the inevitable. If you think about the fact that every day brings us one step nearer to the grave and that we’re each of us prisoners of our own foibles and shortcomings, sure, it would be enough to drive you nuts — but if you quit fighting against all that and instead call some sort of truce with with it, who knows? Maybe you’ll find some sort of contentment, perhaps even a semblance of happiness. It’s worth a try, at any rate.

The first two cinematic adaptations of Clowes’ work, Ghost World and Art School Confidential, offered reasonable-enough approximations of the core ideas explored by each on the comics page, and certainly director Terry Zwigoff seemed sympathetic to the idea of maintaining their integrity, but either a lot was lost in translation (Ghost World) or too much was added to it (Art School Confidential), resulting in a couple of films that were, at least in my view, rather up-and-down affairs. I certainly recommend seeing both, but I can’t pretend that they’re altogether successful. In certain respects they’re wildly so, but in others, they try hard but still miss the mark.

Which brings us up to the now. Working once again from a screenplay by the cartoonist himself, director Craig Johnson went off and made his own film (in my hometown of Minneapolis, no less — great to see my parents’ building on the screen as well as an appearance from Joe Minjares, owner of local Mexican restaurant institution Pepito’s, as a cab driver) without the same level of day-to-day involvement that Zwigoff afforded/extended to his collaborator. Surprisingly, the end result is probably the most faithful, in terms of both tone and content, of any of the “Clowes flicks,” and also the best of the bunch. Don’t ask me how that came to pass, but I’m downright ecstatic that it did.

The idea that the titular one-named character of Wilson is a stand-in for his creator is certainly accentuated by the uncanny physical resemblance achieved by star Woody Harrelson, but in many ways he’s more the sort of “unconventional everyman” we all know : the middle-aged guy who never “got his shit together” (there’s no mention of him having a job, for instance) and seems as lost at 50 as he was at 30 — heck, at 20. A lot of that is down to his own immaturity, to be sure, but he’s so ultimately harmless (to others, that is) that he’s definitely plenty lovable despite not being particularly likable. Still, even for a person this stuck in their ways, things happen that subtly shift their perspective, and for Wilson, the death of his largely-estranged father kicks off a bout of fear of his own mortality that sends him on a low-key odyssey to get back in touch with his fallen-on-hard-times ex-wife, Pippi (played by the always-exceptional Laura Dern), only to learn he has a now-teenage daughter named Claire (Isabella Amara) that he never knew about and who was given up for adoption. When the now-reunited “lovers” decide to interject themselves into their offspring’s life you know it’s going to go south, but watching it happen is both strangely heartwarming and massively entertaining. Wilson is an off-kilter personality, to be sure, but even at his weirdest he doesn’t do anything you couldn’t see someone vaguely like him doing, and Harrelson is never less than more or less perfect in what feels like a role he was born to play. When things do go off the rails for him thanks to a confrontation between Pippi and her neurotic, hyper-competitive, malicious sister, Polly (Cheryl Hines), they really go off the rails, but the absurdity of ensuing events is more than mitigated — heck, it’s made doubly believable — by the relentlessly low-key, “we’ll get through this” tone adopted by Johnson and channeled through his terrific cast. Clowes’ graphic novel employed the inventive conceit of telling its story by means of a series of one-page strips illustrated in a rotation of easily-recognizable “Sunday Funnies” styles, and while that would be impossible to faithfully translate visually to film without being jarring, the easy-going flow Johnson establishes at the outset and sticks to throughout cleaves to the temperament inherent in the book without being slavishly beholden to its exact technique. It works marvelously, in case you hadn’t already figured that much out, and if you’re not utterly engrossed by this film’s easy-going humor, lovingly-illustrated losers, and deep (without being overbearing) implicit understanding of the human condition, shit — I don’t know what it takes to make you happy.

And for much of the film, Wilson doesn’t seem to know what it will really take to make himself happy, either — he’s grasping for a “happily ever after” that never feels entirely out of reach, but his ill-considered actions ensure that he’s never more than a false move or two away from fucking it all up, either. The late-game arrival of his long-suffering dog-sitter, Shelly (Judy Greer), in a more prominent role in his life offers a last chance to get things right, but, as with all things, that could go either way, too. You can’t help but root for Wilson (heck, for everyone) until right up to the end, but unless and until he learns to find a measure of appreciation for what he has and how to let go of the way he wishes things could be, the ever-present, if largely unremarked-upon, tension that has underpinned his entire adult life will continue unabated. Watching how this all plays out is yet another of the film’s central joys, and even though Wilson’s utter cluelessness can be infuriating, it’s somehow never annoying. That takes deft scripting, direction, and acting to pull off, and damn if all parts of that trifecta aren’t present and accounted for here.

Everyday life is a deeply complex and multi-faceted affair even at its most purportedly “easy” times, and even if we don’t see it as such while it’s happening. Wilson is an unassumingly honest and humane reminder that even at its lowest ebb, there is something very much akin to magic to be found in it — if only we can allow ourselves to be our own best friend rather than our own worst enemy.