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flick pick | Blue Velvet 1986
Directed + written by: David Lynch
Starring: Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: drama, mystery
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:  artsy-fartsy
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: ½/5 

Plot synopsis After his dad keels over on the front lawn and ends up in the hospital, college student Jeffrey Beaumont heads back to his picture-perfect hometown of Lumberton to provide family support. Walking home from the hospital one day, he cuts through a meadow. There he spots something nestled amidst the grasses; a closer look reveals that it’s a severed human ear. Good citizen that he is, he promptly wraps it up and brings it into the local police station, where the police chief thanks Jeffrey for his help and sets out to investigate the matter. Jeffrey’s curiosity is piqued; eager to find out if the police have made any progress, he later shows up at the chief’s house hoping for an update. To Jeffrey’s disappointment, the chief politely informs Jeffrey that it’s against policy to discuss ongoing investigations with the public. As it turns out, though, Jeffrey bumps into the chief’s daughter on his way out. She’s a sweet high school student named Sandy, and she remembers that Jeffrey used to go to her school. Her bedroom also happens to be above her dad’s home office, and as a result, she’s overheard a few things about the investigation that she shouldn’t have. In particular, she knows a name’s been mentioned as a possible lead: local lounge singer Dorothy Vallens. With Sandy’s help, Jeffrey tracks down Dorothy, who turns out to be involved in dealings for more twisted and sinister than the fresh-faced college boy could have ever imagined existed in his quaint and quiet little town.

Review The first time I watched Blue Velvet, ages ago now, my reaction was pretty simple: I really didn’t like it all that much. I’d been a huge Twin Peaks fan, loved the funny-quirky characters and stylized-stiff acting, found myself mesmerized by all that weird dialogue and dark beauty. Blue Velvet had all this too, but it also made me deeply, deeply uncomfortable. Its sadomasochistic sex scenes and bizarre, not terribly sympathetic leading lady (Isabella Rossellini as Dorothy) -- all that freakiness made me squirm. It took a long time before I could force myself to sit down and watch this supposed classic again. Whether it was just that I was better prepared to be disturbed or just that I’m a little older and no longer demand that all movies deliver barrels of ha-has, this time around, Blue Velvet drew me in. True, its subject matter makes it hard to watch, but its lush aesthetic beauty means you can’t take your eyes away no matter how much you might think you want to. And this, of course, is the point: the superficial pleasantness of suburbia has never been stripped away in quite so memorable and vivid a manner. In Blue Velvet, Lynch makes us look beyond the immaculate green lawns and apple-cheeked smiling neighbors, and question what all that bland niceness might be hiding. He and his fine cast – notably a positively scary-loony Dennis Hopper and a campily wonderful Dean Stockwell – do such a good job of getting us to dig beneath the surface that by film’s end, it’s those flawless lawns that start to look a little creepy: they’re so manicured, so fake, in their perfect prettiness. A lazy popcorn flick this certainly isn’t, but there’s no question: Blue Velvet offers a truly different take on the same-old tired murder mystery genre, and serves up a thought-provoking skewering of small-town romanticism on the side.—reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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