I just rented Mullholland Drive...did my DVD miss the ending of did I?

Don’t get me wrong, I like David Lynch and I know he is not exactly mainstream when it come to plot…but really…what the hell was that all about???

I really liked the first 75% of the film, thinking foolishly that it was going somewhere…little did I know it was going right into the toilet.

Can I buy a clue from anyone? What happened at the end?

There’s more than one interpretation, but I tend to go with the following.

The last 25% is closer to the “real” time line of events.

Little Betty Elms arrives from Canada, all bright-eyed with dreams of becoming a big star.

That’s not quite the way the industry works, it’s all about who you know. She had to change her name to “Diane Selwyn” ('cause “Betty Elms” just would not do in Hollywood, Norma Jean). She had to deal with “casting couch” kind of auditions, and despite her great talent, she only got smaller parts in other people’s movies – namely Camilla Rhodes (a.k.a. “Rita”).

Camilla Rhodes became a star because she had “connections” (the kind of connections that force directors to cast you as their new discovery.)

Like she said at the party, Betty/Diane met Camilla on the set of one of her movies and they became lovers.

Camilla later left her to marry the director (smart career move).

Jealous and miserable, Betty/Diane hired a hitman to kill Camilla. The blue key meant that the job was done.

Tormented by guilt and her tremendous sense of failure, Betty/Diane kills herself.

The first 75% is the red herring. I’ve heard debates that it is the product of either Betty or Rita’s imagination around the time of death.

I’d suspect that in her tormented mind, Betty was trying to imagine an alternative reality in a “what if we could start over somehow?” kind of way. Bits and pieces of real events became the basis of her deluded, pre-suicide fantasy (or her dying fantasy).

The fantasy: Camilla survived the hitman’s attempt (the start of the movie in the limo that was based on Betty’s own real experience in a limo on Mulholland Dr.), with a complete loss of memory so they could meet again for the first time and start fresh.

Unfortunately, bits of reality intrude all too often – especially that damn key! They key that means Camilla is dead (a pandora box that is reality!). Betty’s experience of Hollywood was painfully bittersweet – it’s a place of smoke and mirrors.

This opinion is based on an amalgomation of interpretations and may not be the correct one


The first 75% is red herring?!?!
And then…
OK then.

Still doesn’t make any sense.
But the cinematography sure was pretty.

Thanks Charmian!

I think “red herring” is the wrong term, since it implies something that’s a mere diversion. The first 75% is the emotional set-up of the movie, bringing insight into the failure that Diane’s life has become by channelling her wish-fulfillment version of love and success that eluded her in real life. The last quarter puts her “fantasy” into sharp relief, but that doesn’t make the first 3/4 irrelevant.

Even though I don’t think there’s a single interpretation, a few comments on Charmian’s astute summary:

I’d argue that Diane’s name was always Diane, and Betty is an identity she creates for herself in her dreamworld, cribbed from the waitress’s nametag. In creating a new identity, she hopes to create a new narrative for herself, one that has a happier ending for Betty than what happened to Diane. How is Diane Selwyn a better name than Betty Elms?

I don’t believe Camilla got the role because of connections, but I do believe that that’s how Diane chooses to rationalize it. Think of Rita’s line-readings in the kitchen and Betty’s in the audition: Diane’s revised version has obviously talented Betty lose the job because of a nefarious conspiracy. Even the director wants her but is forced to go with Camilla, whose acting skills Diane doesn’t hold in high esteem.

Personally, I think it’s a brilliant movie, one of the finest about films and the filmgoing experience, plus it’s also the only movie where Lynch manages to maintain all his stylistic trappings, but also preserves a sense of warmth and compassion that had largely eluded him prior to The Straight Story. A great work that benefits from multiple viewings.

that’s kind of how i saw it. the first 3/4 of the film was dianne/betty’s feverish dream or fantasy right before suicide. she was trying to recall the story in a “hollywood” way, to contrast the crappy way that things usually happen in real life. it retold her history in that kind of “bushy-tailed midwesterner pulls herself up by her boot-straps” theme that has been a staple of films for years.

the woman who played dianne/betty was amazing. se makes you think that she’s a terrible actor in the beginning of the movie, then floors you at the end. it’s hard to even tell that it’s the same actress.

So … what’s the deal with the smiling old people?


Quite true: “red herring” is indeed an inappropriate choice of words. I was struggling for a term to describe the plot that’s not really the plot, (though it’s essentially the “heart” of it.)

Ya know, strangely, I assumed “Diane” was her fabricated name because “Selwyn” reminded me of “Samuel Goldwyn” and gave it more of a pedigree kind of sound. But it is equally plausible that “Betty Elms” was a choice for her fantasy (in that “going back to innocence” sort of way).

IIRC, the “old people” were Diane/Betty’s parents. You see them at the very start of the movie after they drop Diane/Betty off at the airport. In the cab as they head home, they are just beaming with pride and joy that their little girl is going off to become rich and famous.

If you’ve ever really, really disappointed your parents, you can probably empathize with Diane/Betty whose collosal failures would make facing her parents thoroughly dreadful. Poor folks. Instead of becoming rich and famous, their pride and joy is an unkown actress getting shoddy bit parts (pratically resorting to humping the leg of washed up old guys for her auditions), she’s living alone and unloved in a dark, barren apartment and – lord have mercy! – she’s turned into a lesbian ta boot! :wink:

I guess facing her parents would be like facing her personal demons in some way.

I saw this movie with Roger Ebert during Ebert’s annual Cinema Interruptus at the Council for World Affairs. The theory that the audience and Ebert jointly came up with was that the first 75% of the film was a dream. You can read about it here.

I’ll have to go with feverish, pre-suicidal dream, as well. And, like a dream, bits and pieces of it don’t fit together or lead anywhere in particular, and various fact (e.g. strange passing cowboy at party) and fiction (lots of film noir references, cheesy detective lines) make their way in.
The best part of this film is discussing it afterwards. Like so:
“So what did the troll represent?”
“Wait- The one with the magic box?”
“Uh huh. Was he a troll, even, or a hobo?”
“I dunno. But I’d say he played a role not unlike the mysterious cowboy.”