captainblicero’s review published on Letterboxd:
Lynch's greatest film, a masterpiece, and most certainly the one in which his straightforward and avant-garde sensibilities are most perfectly in sync. The central thrust is exactly the same as that of Blue Velvet--the dark undercurrents of a deceptively "normal" small town--but here the horror is emotional, cathartic, beautiful, and the horrific crime of a father raping and murdering his own daughter is, amazingly, turned by Lynch into a story that is redemptive, and a woman, Laura Palmer, who until the film was known only as a dead body, is given life, beauty, respect, and personhood.
It can hardly be in my power to describe what Lynch is getting at here, but let me try: the bundle of obscure signifiers "Lil" is Lynch sticking his thumb in the eye of all the shallow armchair detectives who think it's fun to "solve" the mysteries of raped and murdered women (and with it, mocking the whole idea of "closure"); in fact the entire opening 30 minutes is like a parody of idiotic "find out who killed the girl" cop shows, with Kiefer Sutherland deducing that that a room, along with its furniture, "is worth about $27,000" (what a detective!), Chris Isaak as an All-American FBI agent breaking the nose of a hick deputy and telling an uppity woman to make him some coffee (what a man! look at how he gets things done!) and dumb "little ring" puns and other stupid jokes.
And then the jokes stop.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is, more than any other film I've seen, about, and perhaps only about, the utter destruction that men wreak upon women. The only positive male figures in the film are Agent Cooper (a nonentity, gone, in Philadelphia) and James (a fantasy, unreal). With "Bob" Lynch is letting us all know, in the only way he can, the real truth about rape: that our cultural insistence that rape is committed only by creepy, skeevy, snarling, coming-in-through-the-window-at-night "rapists" is largely false and that most women are raped by people they know: their boyfriends. Their husbands. Their fathers. Such is the power of this myth that Palmer herself has internalized it, and envisions her father as one of the aforementioned rapists, until the moment when she can no longer, and lets him know, in a chilling whisper: "Stay away from me." Lynch's depiction of the day after Laura is raped by Bob/Leland is, for lack of a better word, the realest he has ever been: she can't look anyone in the eye, she has vertigo, she cries at little things, she becomes distracted, she weeps in public. And even her best friend has no idea. Sheryl Lee's face is a rictus of pain, a tortured gargoyle.
I used to think that Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves gave the best female performance of the 90s, but now I'm not so sure.