The Cannes Film Festival is often a major launchpad for critically acclaimed movies from revered auteurs. But sometimes, that level of expectation can have the opposite effect, with movies that receive divisive receptions at the festival forced to relaunch in a new context. That has been distributor A24’s strategy with “Under the Silver Lake,” director David Robert Mitchell’s peculiar seriocomic neo-noir, which follows a stoned Andrew Garfield around a dreamlike Los Angeles in his quest to find a missing woman.
After critics were split on the irreverent movie following its Cannes premiere, A24 made the decision to move “Under the Silver Lake” out of its high-profile summer release date to December 7. Now, IndieWire has exclusively learned, the movie has been pushed out of the 2018 calendar entirely and will instead open in the safer corridor of April 19, 2019.
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This decision will give the movie “the best possible chance in the marketplace,” according to a representative at Cinetic Marketing, which is working on the film. (A24 declined to comment.) The decision ensures that “Under the Silver Lake” won’t have to compete with this year’s dense fall movie season, and takes it out of awards season conversations where it never had a realistic shot of gaining any momentum. It also leaves open the possibility that the movie could relaunch at a more supportive American festival, such as Sundance in January, SXSW in March, or Tribeca in April.
While there has been speculation that Mitchell returned to the editing room to rework his dense, wandering narrative into a more palatable format, representatives for the movie denied that any changes had been made to the cut screened at Cannes. Instead, the new release date will offer “Under the Silver Lake” the chance for a fresh start.
The move echoes A24’s decision with Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Lobster,” another idiosyncratic, category-busting vision that hit theaters a year after its Cannes premiere. Lionsgate also followed a similar strategy with Jeff Nichols’ Arkansas-set drama “Mud,” which screened late at Cannes to a muted reception and opened the following April after it played to much stronger responses at Sundance.
However, those movies were more tangible crowdpleasers than “Under the Silver Lake,” a two-and-a-half hour riff on the shaggy-dog detective formula familiar to viewers from “The Long Goodbye” (with a touch of “Mulholland Drive”) that finds Garfield’s character wandering a maze of half-formed puzzles that may or may not add up. The movie is a fascinating and unexpected followup to Mitchell’s breakthrough horror-thriller “It Follows,” and bears a closer resemblance to the playful tone of his 2010 debut, “The Myth of the American Sleepover.” Garfield was unable to promote the film at Cannes due to his Broadway commitments for “Angels in America,” for which he eventually won a Tony, but stands a good chance at receiving some attention for his dopey, baffled anti-hero. The plot, however, will confound some audiences almost as much as it does Garfield’s character throughout the movie.
To that end, “Under the Silver Lake” must shake off comparisons to another highly anticipated followup that flailed at Cannes: Richard Kelly’s 2006 pop fever dream “Southland Tales,” which followed up his acclaimed “Donnie Darko” and faced a wave of negativity after its premiere. “Southland Tales” ultimately hit theaters a year and a half after its premiere, where it was a monumental flop.
It remains to be seen if A24 can salvage Mitchell’s ambitious movie from facing a similar fate, but the odds are in its favor: Unlike “Southland Tales,” “Under the Silver Lake” is being released by a company known for its savvy marketing to a hip millennial audience, and the movie panders to that crowd. It’s a fascinating, puzzle-like ode to the last gasp of the analog age, with cereal box codes and graphic novels fleshing out an enigmatic series of events readymade for dissection in Reddit forums. Whether or not it becomes a commercial success, “Under the Silver Lake” could easily find its footing as an object of cult-like obsession, which would be fitting for a story about exactly that.
In the meantime, a few audiences will get a chance to assess the movie again before the end of the year, as “Under the Silver Lake” screens in Los Angeles at AFI Fest on November 12. Mitchell, Garfield, and other members of the cast are expected to attend.