The works of visionary science-fiction novelist Philip K. Dick have generally had a tough time being adapted to the big screen; sure, there are successes like Blade Runner and A Scanner Darkly, but there are far more dumbed-down action movies like Paycheck, Screamers and Next. Wilder’s Your Name Here also fails to capture the brilliance of Dick’s work onscreen, but rather than muddle it with mindless action sequences, Name opts instead for obtuse, pretentious musings on the nature of reality.
- Your Name Here
- Bill Pullman, Taryn Manning, Traci Lords, M. Emmet Walsh, Ivana Milicevic
- Directed by Matthew Wilder
- Plays again June 15 at 3:30 p.m.
To be fair, Dick’s novels were often full of obtuse, pretentious musings on the nature of reality, but at least they were always couched in exciting, pulpy sci-fi plots—even his later, heavily drug-influenced semi-autobiographical works. Name doesn’t adapt any specific Dick novel, but combines elements from his real life and some of his stories into a fictionalized tale of Dick-like author William J. Frick (Pullman), who in 1974 is in the drug-fueled throes of finishing his literary masterpiece, a book called Diegesis (Dick’s philosophical theories were put down in a journal he called the Exegesis).
One particularly potent hit of some unidentified substance sends Frick into what might be an alternate reality, or might be a hallucination, in which he’s pursued and persecuted for his visions by an ever-shifting cabal that includes his ex-wife Julie (Lords), a Hollywood starlet named Nikki (Manning) and a government agent who is sometimes a cranky old man (Walsh) and sometimes a leggy blonde (Milicevic). Just when Frick seems to think he has a handle on who’s who and what’s what, his perspective and situation undergo a serious alteration.
Wilder offers no entry point for those not intimately familiar with Dick’s life and work, and the author’s Wikipedia entry is more illuminating and entertaining than this movie is. All the narrative twists and turns suggest some grand unifying ending, but about halfway through the movie you realize there isn’t anything to figure out; it’s all just a bunch of willful nonsense.
Pullman, looking uncannily like Michael Douglas, mumbles his way through a tough part, but Lords does give what is probably her career-best performance as, ironically, a frumpy housewife. The acting is fine, but it’s got no context; this is not the kind of movie to mount on a small budget, and the production has a curious emptiness to it, as if it were all shot in one abandoned warehouse hastily redressed for each new locale, with recycled extras. The whole movie is reduced to cheap, meaningless pondering, as much a disservice to Dick’s legacy as any lame Ben Affleck or Nicolas Cage vehicle.