It is unusual for an actor, in the middle of a publicity tour, to admit that some people hate the movie he’s publicizing. (When broaching this subject, I even tried to soften that sentiment by instead saying, “People don’t know what to make of it.”) But this is all kind of fitting for a movie like Under the Silver Lake, which, while watching, emotes a, “Love me, hate me, whatever!” kind of blase attitude. This is a movie that doesn’t seem to care what the audience thinks of it (which is a big reason I found it fascinating).
Andrew Garfield plays Sam, a sort-of L.A. slacker who, after his neighbor suddenly disappears, looks for clues in popular culture to try to find her – and to unravel a greater, larger conspiracy theory. Director David Robert Mitchell (coming off his 2015 hit It Follows) makes the clues so absurd – one is a map located on the back of an old cereal box; another is hidden in the first issue of Nintendo Power magazine – that he’s obviously poking fun at the people who painstakingly look for clues in every movie, fueling grandiose fan theories.
But it’s Garfield who loves a good conspiracy theory, going on and on about why he finds them fascinating. At one point, just to clarify something he said, I had to actually ask him if he’s a 9/11 truther. (He is not.) So this is a big reason why he took this role in a movie so strange even the studio, A24, doesn’t quite seem to know what to do with it. (It was supposed to come out last summer, then was delayed to the fall, then was delayed again until now, as it’s getting a quick theatrical release this weekend, then will be on video on demand.)
There’s even a scene that kind of addresses Garfield’s time as Spider-Man, that Garfield claims was in the script even before he was attached. (They considered taking it out for being too meta.) As Sam wakes up, his hand covered in blood, he reaches for his coffee table but a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man gets stuck to his hand. He desperately tries to shake it off but it just won’t budge. Yes, it’s difficult not to read something into that.
How have you been?
I’m pretty good, man. I’m alright. I’m just in L.A., and it’s nice weather, and I’m gonna eat a soup in a minute.
What kind of soup?
It’s like a chicken tortilla soup, L.A. style.
I have not had lunch yet, so I am envious.
Oh my God, that’s really late for you not to have had lunch.
You’re in that grind. You’ve got that hustle culture. You’ve gotta check out of that stuff. You’ve gotta slow down in that space!
Oh, you don’t have to tell me that. I am very well aware. By the way, I like this movie quite a bit. And I say that because I feel you’re getting one of two things, either, “I don’t get it,” or, “I love it.”
And maybe a little bit of, “I hate it.” But that’s cool, too. That’s kind of enjoyable. I say that a bit glibly, but I know that David wants everyone to have their own feelings and to have their own responses, and he’s so excited for that. I think the one thing that he found a little bit heartbreaking, and a little bit upsetting, is that he feels a little bit like anyone who feels hurt by the perceived misogyny in the filmmaking, he feels misunderstood. His intentions were to make a comment on the misogyny of Hollywood, and the misogyny and the patriarchal fucked up-ness of the system and the city and in that particular industry.
Is it because some people are taking the movie at face value and others look at it more like a parody?
I agree. And it’s fun, you know? It’s fun to be having to talk out these issues because of the film and I think it’s really interesting. I love that it is polarizing. I mean, I think at least it’s not a vanilla, down the middle kind of softball, you know?