Laura Palmer lives—however briefly—in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Laura Palmer lives—however briefly—in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: The release of Star Trek Into Darkness has us fondly remembering other movies based on, or spun-off from, TV shows.

Fire Walk With Me (1992)
A wrap-up movie directed by series creator David Lynch should have been the perfect antidote to the frustrating end of Twin Peaks, especially without the interference of network execs at ABC. Instead, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was booed at Cannes and met with near-universal derision from critics and fans alike. Viewed with some distance from Twin Peaks proper and taken on its own terms, however, the movie is… still a bit of a mess, but a riveting one.

It helps to view Fire Walk With Me as an especially dark David Lynch feature rather than a long episode of Twin Peaks. The film abounds with classic Lynch tropes: delightfully awkward dialogue; dark, surreal dreams; and copious, existence-numbing drug use. To be fair, there are quite a few reasons fans of Twin Peaks might be disappointed. The show’s protagonist, Special Agent Dale Cooper (regular Lynch collaborator Kyle MacLachlan), barely shows up. Some beloved characters don’t appear, and one major role (Donna Hayward) has been recast. But many of the one-off performances are worth watching just for their oddness, especially David Bowie’s cameo as a long-missing FBI agent. Other returning players are still engaging or given larger roles.

The most expanded character, and the best part of Fire Walk With Me, is Sheryl Lee’s Laura Palmer. Though she was also cast as Laura’s identical cousin Maddy, Lee never really got the chance to play Laura alive on the series; her homecoming queen/investigative MacGuffin was mostly just a symbol. But the actress’ effortless shifts between Laura’s devil-may-care, sex-symbol façade and her depressed, tortured inner self elevate the film, and give the series higher emotional stakes in hindsight.

Though Fire Walk With Me makes half-hearted attempts to answer some of the series’ lingering questions, it’s primarily a meditation on the last week of Laura’s life. Given her killer’s identity, that focus means the film is also a meditation on another, more intimate crime, and the psychological toll it takes. Considering the subject matter, Fire Walk With Me is guaranteed to alienate at least a few fans of a series that earned a now-unthinkable 16.2 Nielsen rating. But it’s also a characteristically Lynchian look at Laura’s sad, mesmerizing breakdown.

Availability: DVD and a LaserDisc release from 1993. The film is also packaged alongside five other Lynch pictures in a Region 2, Blu-ray box set.