Directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch
Written by Kent Harper & Jennifer Chambers Lynch
People are weird. If you accept this fact, then life will make more sense, but only in a very weird way.
Surveillance is set in a town so small, out of the way, and downright boring that the local cops spend their days shooting out the tires of speeders on the freeway. Their follow-up routine is to put the drivers through a humiliating encounter with the law that guarantees they will either never speed again, or never travel through this part of the state.
During one of these confrontations something very bad happened. And the very bad thing is somehow connected to a recent series of grisly murders in the area.
Enter two FBI agents, sent with their black suits, interrogation training, emotional tics, and cameras to interview everyone involved and get to the bottom of the story. The agents (played with verve and wit by Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond) are as eccentric as their subjects--a rattled police officer, a traumatized little girl, and a young woman who trusts no one. As each character recounts part of the story from their limited point of view, a sort of Rashomon develops. Even if everyone is telling the truth, something doesn't make sense.
In her first full-length feature since 1993's Boxing Helena, writer/director Jennifer Lynch uses our expectation of her and her father (executive producer David Lynch) to clever advantage. From the beginning, we suspect that lies are being told, but by whom, and for what purpose? Not knowing makes it difficult to side with anyone, so there is no clear-cut protagonist. Further alienating the viewer is the Lynch signature soundtrack, often inappropriate or off tempo.
As certain suspicions are confirmed, and we think we have it all figured out, new and awful surprises come to light. The build is almost excruciating, but the pay-off is oh so sweet. The story's loose ends are tied snugly together, by the final scene. And if you have ever been as bored as the cops who patrol the fringes of this flat, deadbeat town you will probably find the conclusion both creepy and funny.
Kudos to Ms. Lynch for the oddball casting in Surveillance. Ormond and Pullman are delightful as middle-aged interrogators with secrets of their own. But every character has depth and significance, thanks to a supporting cast that includes Cheri Oteri, French Stewart, and Michael Ironside.
Even if you figure out what's up before the end, the ride is screeching good fun. Thanks to Scott for the tip on this film!