My goodness, 27-year-old Kyle MacLachlan was a dreamboat. I mean, here he is holding an ear, and he looks incredible.
I am really starting to understand why this guy was David Lynch’s muse. He’s so wholesome and kind and trustworthy, but he can portray naivete and stubbornness, too, and even as these imperfections swell, he’s still a likable guy. MacLachlan’s Blue Velvet character, Jeffrey Beaumont, possesses those aforementioned traits, as did Dale Cooper, yet the two aren’t identical. Jeffrey is far younger and far less sure of himself, so much so that he becomes very easily entangled in the life of lounge singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) and basically acts as her protector and pawn. What started as a simple curiosity, and a way of flirting with the neighborhood hottie, Sandy Williams (Laura Dern), mutated into something far greater than lil’ Jeffrey could have predicted. And it started with that ear.
It’s hard to say how David Lynch came up with the specifics of this one–or any of his ones, for that matter–but there are some pretty royally fucked up commonalities between Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, and some clear segues from one to the other. For starters, Lynch enjoys exploring the horrors buried within small logging towns. (Logging! Okay.) Perhaps it’s the industriousness, or the piney smell, or the high concentration of buzz saws, or some combination therein. He also enjoys exploring abusive relationships. Before there was Shelley and Leo, there was Dorothy and Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), whose maladies cut even deeper than, say, Leland Palmer’s, because as far as we know, there was nothing really supernatural about Booth. He wasn’t possessed by a Bob-like demon, or if he was, we never got a glimpse of it. Booth had a penchant for the taste of blue velvet, crazy eyes, the verbal/physical/sexual assault of Dorothy, and saying “fuck” more than the Dude. He was just an unfortunate, lonely, deeply sad person, who somehow took it out on a woman who fielded his battery and insults, so much so that she demanded abuse from Jeffrey even as he swooped in to save her.
One other thing that David Lynch seems to focus on is good girls doing bad things. It’s not necessarily in a perverse way, or rather, in a way that suggests Lynch himself is perverse. (Or maybe it is and I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt because he doesn’t seem like a lecher.) Anyhow, on one end of the spectrum you’ve got Sandy, not unlike Donna, the good girl who looks into mysteries without getting into too much trouble, and who is probably going to get the guy in the end. On the other hand, you’ve got the good girl like Dorothy, not unlike Josie or Laura, who gets in too deep and can’t pull herself out of the cavernous pit of hell she’s in. Lynch went to a darker place for Twin Peaks, concerning the fates of Josie and Laura, but at least with Blue Velvet, we’re able to see Dorothy somewhat redeemed and freed of Booth’s oppression.
Rossellini is fantastic in this, always wanting to terrify you with her strength but never quite managing to; Dorothy’s fragility overpowers what little strength she has. Yet she’s not a waif; she’s a substantial presence. It’s just that she’s never really had to fight because, even though Booth brings her to the brink of death, she’s at least somewhat sure she won’t die. She thrives off the drama because she’s got a case of stockholm syndrome, and watching her come out of it is both torturous and triumphant. I’ve already mentioned MacLachlan and Hopper, so I’ll leave you with maybe the worst image to come out of this movie, and that should sum it up nicely.
I kid, Dern was nice and good. But cheebus, that face is horrid.