“Inland Empire” isn’t a film to love. It is a work to admire, to puzzle through, to wrestle with. Its pleasures are fugitive, even frustrating. The first time I saw it, I was repulsed by the shivers of Lynchian sadism, a feeling doubtless informed by my adoration of the far more approachable, humanistic “Mulholland Drive.” On second viewing, though, “Inland Empire” seemed funnier, more playful and somehow heartfelt. Certainly, there is nothing but love in Ms. Dern’s performance, which is as much a gift to us as to the director who has given this actress her greatest roles. It’s easy to get lost in a David Lynch film, but Ms. Dern and her amazing rubber-band mouth, which laughs like the sun and cries us a river, proves a magnificent guide.
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