David Lynch’s extraordinary portrait of Hollywood, which ranks alongside Blue Velvet as one of his masterpieces, here receives a lustrous remastering.
Betty Elms (Naomi Watts in a star-making performance) is a newcomer to Hollywood. She befriends Rita (Laura Elena Harring), who lost her memory following a car crash and is using the name after seeing a poster for the noir thriller Gilda starring Rita Hayworth. Together, the two women attempt to uncover the mystery of Rita’s past. At the same time, a strange figure appears at the back of a diner, an assassin runs amok and a director (Justin Theroux) is being muscled by the Mob, who want an unknown actress who looks like Rita to play the lead in his next film. These events gradually converge, with Betty journeying further from the light of stardom and closer to a nightmare.
With its nod to earlier eras in Tinsetown’s past, Lynch’s tale of two actresses aiming for stardom possesses a timeless quality. Originally conceived as a pilot for an TV series that was cancelled, Lynch expanded his vision to produce one of the most original and unsettling explorations of Hollywood’s dark underbelly and the desires that drive the ambitious individuals that gravitate towards it.