Adrian Graham

Head shot of man in room

Under the Silver Lake

Under the Silver Lake (2018) is a homage to noir cinema. There’s a great performance by Andrew Garfield, a slick Hitchcockian film-score, and constant references to classic noir films, male desire, beautiful women, and unhappiness. Right from the opening, which quotes Altman’s The Long Goodbye, the scene is set for Sam’s journey. We get the usual noir runaround. There’s a bit of Harper here, The Big Lebowski, some magic, some horror, a bit of this, a bit of that, Magnolia, and North By NorthWest. Sam is a flawed character. I can understand why some viewers might find him unlikeable. Under the Silver Lake we’re witnessing Sam’s story. It is his POV. How he reacts to women, and how they react to him are part of his own life experience. I’m wondering, would a device like a voiceover have helped to convey this more clearly? It’s the world itself – with its betrayals, distrust, cheats, liars, and bullshit – that the protagonist doesn’t get. In some ways the central character is a classic naïf. But, as always, the protagonist, somehow (does it really matter), returns full circle, back to the beginning. The same, but a little wiser. In this case it’s in a scene that is an oblique reference to, The Last Picture Show.

The Myth of the American Sleepover

The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010) does a great job capturing the uncertainty of adolescence. It charms, and amuses without overplaying its hand. The over-nighter scenario (American Graffiti (1973), Dazed and Confused (1993), Superbad (2007), Booksmart (2019)) is a common one in coming of age stories. It captures the sense that everything is to play for during the course of a single night. What they do, or don’t do will impact the rest of their lives. They can’t afford to mess it up. Time is running out for them to learn the rules of adulthood, to begin living their own lives, to make sense of their reality, to take their own choices, to think for themselves. If they don’t get it right on this night they will somehow be forever catching up, or doomed to forever miss the point. Failing. Lonely. Unsuccessful. Watching their friends be happy and succeed. It’s a c classic case of FOMO (fear of missing out). The Myth of the American Sleepover, like all coming of age stories, with its nostalgic music, first loves, and encroaching sense of newly forming individual identities, captures a lost moment in time. A single night marks the end of childhood. Something new is about to happen. And nobody knows what it will be. It might be something you least expect – or something you subconsciously half-realised all along.


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