This is a really interesting time to be a Twin Peaks fan.
The fate of the Showtime reboot is currently up in the air due to a falling out with Lynch. For my vote, I’m siding with the people that say ‘No Lynch, no TP‘ and hope they can come to some agreement.
However, today marks the show’s turning twenty-five years old. It’s with that in mind we come to this article.
Last October, after reviewing the main series, I had left the opening to review the prequel movie Fire Walk With Me. Initially I was going to wait until the reboot was underway, but with that currently in flux, and this being the official anniversary, this is really the best time for it.
So pour yourselves a damn good cup of coffee and let’s get down to it, shall we?
[NOTE: As of this point, I have not checked out the 90 minute Missing Pieces collection of deleted scenes or the Extended Edition. This review is purely on the original finished film as it is presented.]
Flashback to 1991: Twin Peaks has just had the plug pulled on it by the network. Not ready to leave the setting behind, Lynch wants to continue exploring the troubled character of Laura Palmer. Fire Walk With Me is a movie meant to explore-in further detail-the days leading up to Laura’s murder, as well as tying the main story of the first half further into the mythology of the Black Lodge from the show’s second half – something Lynch had planned to make a larger part of this if the movie proved successful enough to make more.
The result is a film that’s uneven, but, as is often the case with Lynch, still fascinating.
I’ll say this much-a lot of this movie’s actually pretty good. Yeah, we already have kind of an idea of the story of Laura Palmer’s final days, but seeing it play out does make for an interesting narrative. Further, for having played a corpse for the series itself and mainly existing in flashbacks, Sheryl Lee has fleshed out Laura into one of the more diverse characters within the series, and this movie gives more of a chance to show that.
The big problems with the movie come thanks in part to tying it into the Black Lodge storyline and more of the mythos. Some of this is partially a consequence of behind the scenes elements – Kyle MacLachlan almost didn’t come back as Dale Cooper, so a chunk of what had been written for him was repurposed for a new character played by Chris Isaak, as well as new characters played by David Bowie and Kiefer Sutherland.
The result of this means we’re introducing several new characters who will then disappear from the movie within the first half hour. Which is unfortunate, since the storyline here- investigating a murder that is an earlier victim of the elusive BOB- could make for an interesting side story in its own right. As it is though, it is introduced and then promptly pushed aside for the initial story this movie wanted to tell. That it feels like it rushes to get to that point is only further adding to the problem.
The other major drawback to this movie compared to the main series is that it does a great job with the mystery and mythology of the Twin Peaks universe, but in turn, it loses some of the charm of the series. While the show also had a compelling narrative, part of what made it so winning was the endearing weirdness of everything. Things like Dale Cooper’s often manic enthusiasm, the well-meaning but heavily quirky law enforcement of Twin Peaks, and characters like Pete Martell and Nadine Hurley were as much a part of the show as things like the Man From Another Place and Killer BOB.
Of those, the only character who gets to retain much of their weirder side in this is Lynch’s own Gordon Cole, and that because they couldn’t really work around that. Even returning, somewhat strange characters like Dale Cooper and Albert Rosenfield feel more straight-faced and lacking the charm that made them so enjoyable the first time around. Even the Man From Another Place feels more somber in this.
Fortunately, the things this does well, it does very well. For as dodgy as the story can get, and that sometimes a consequence of outside circumstances, Lynch’s direction is still on point for this one. Even when the script slips, Lynch still manages to capture the mysterious and/or creepy elements to make up for some of these failings. The fateful climax of the movie, thankfully, is one Lynch does well. Between the sense of dread building to Laura Palmer’s fate and the way it’s carried out (which feels strangely reminiscent of the infamous final scene of Looking For Mr. Goodbar), he delivers a chilling finale that, even knowing its coming, is still a dark one to watch.
This is further added to by the casting on this. This is a double-edged sword, admittedly. Sutherland, Isaak, and Bowie all have characters I’d like to see more of, but this isn’t really their story. Despite that, it highlights the downsides of that first act.
On the other side of this, however, the returning cast are in top form. Besides Lee’s turn as Laura, we see several of the returning cast back for one more round here. Of the other returning actors, Ray Wise is in great form as Leland Palmer once again. This time around, he has yet to enter grieving father mode, so he has more of an opportunity to let the sinister side out to play on this one.
Alongside the returning cast, I do have to give some attention to Moira Kelly in this. Due to a schedule conflict, Lara Flynn Boyle wasn’t able to reprise her role as Donna Hayward for this, so Kelly was called in to substitute. As a tag-in, she still does well with the part, which is a good thing given how much time she has with Lee on this one.
I’ve heard people either speak well of this movie or REALLY dislike it. For my vote, it’s somewhere in between. I don’t think it’s as strong as the series was in its prime. At the same time, it does a number of things well enough that I can’t really bear it any ill will.
As it is, for me, it’s in the same boat as David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune (which is amusing considering the Jurgen Prochnow cameo in this movie) – it’s got some good elements to it, but thanks to problems behind the scenes, it also has some problems that it can’t quite overcome.
So…that about closes the book for now.
Sort of. There may yet be new Twin Peaks to come (come on, Showtime. Bring back Lynch!) and who knows? I might feel the itch down the line and do some writeups on the written supplemental material adding to the series if I can find them.
…whether that’s a promise or a warning is entirely up to you.
Till next time.
-Great performances by Sheryl Lee and Ray Wise
-Some interesting seeds of other stories at play in this
-Despite some interesting plot hooks, first act doesn’t really fit well with the rest of the movie
-Some of the weird charm of the original series is lost in the compression to a film format