David Lynch's Prequel Of Contempt
par John Anderson

All the eccentricity, and none of the electricity, of David Lynch. With Sheryl Lee, Moira Kelly, Ray Wise, James Marshall. Directed by David Lynch. At area theaters IF YOU PLAN on seeing "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me," bring a book. You won't be able to read it in the darkened theater, of course, but it should still provide more entertainment than what's on the screen. Feel the binding. Flip through the pages. Wear it on your head. By the time this movie – and calling it that presumes, wrongly, that it moves – ends, playing with your book will seem like high adventure.

David Lynch's long-gone and unlamented TV series "Twin Peaks" began with a two-hour pilot that was truly exciting television, and from there it was all downhill. Lynch seemed to lose interest. Other directors of the series managed to capture Lynch's obscurity without turning out anything particularly compelling. By the time it was canceled, the series seemed to be daring viewers to try to watch it. Which they couldn't. With "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me," a "prequel" to the series, Lynch is making the same challenge of moviegoers.

Anyone who managed to watch the show knows who killed Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), the young woman in plastic wrap whose murder was the focus of the the first season. But Lynch wants to tell us again. He also either is trying to justify the series or punish us for not having watched it. Characters and bits of plot line appear and disappear without explanation; there are so many hallucinations you give up trying to determine what the different characters are or are not seeing; time is an elusive quality. But that wouldn't bother a director who makes a movie based on a canceled TV show so he can tell us a story whose ending we already know.

The film starts with the murder of Theresa Banks (Pamela Gidley), a young woman who worked with Laura as a prostitute. Two FBI agents (Chris Isaak and Kiefer Sutherland) are sent to investigate. Then they disappear, strangely, and are never heard from again. Then it's a year later, and we meet the ill-fated Laura, who's cocaine-addicted, a part-time prostitute and increasingly hysterical. It's never quite clear in the film whether her drug problems are caused by her sex problems, or vice versa, but abuse by her father Leland (Ray Wise) who is apparently possessed, is contributing to her nervous, self-destructive state. But thinking one will care what happens to her or why by the time the movie ends is the height of presumption.

Lynch has proved in the past that he's capable of producing exciting, disturbing films – "Eraserhead," "Blue Velvet" and "Wild at Heart." But the pretensiousness of "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me," and what can be construed only as utter contempt for its audience, threaten to make David Lynch irrelevant.

John Anderson
Newsday, 31 août 1992