Your enjoyment of “Your Name Here” might depend on your tolerance for mind-bending narratives and acid-trip weirdness. Mine is low, I’ll tell you that up front. But “Your Name Here” deserves credit for being different, and Bill Pullman’s central performance is probably the most bizarre and demanding of his career.
Written and directed by first-timer Matthew Wilder, our story is set in Los Angeles in July 1974, when a trippy sci-fi writer named William J. Frick (Pullman) — clearly modeled after Philip K. Dick — is informed that he owes more than $100,000 in back taxes. If he could finish his latest novel, he could probably pay the bill. Trouble is, he’s stuck on putting into words the spiritual epiphany he had on March 2, which he wants to incorporate into the story.
That’s about the last part of the film that makes any kind of normal sense. Next thing you know, Frick is being approached by Nikki (Taryn Manning), a hot actress — “the poor man’s Ali McGraw,” someone calls her — who wants him to help her with the disaster epic she’s currently shooting. Then Frick is being hurried onstage somewhere to accept an award. Then Frick is in the balcony, watching a version of himself deliver a spiel to an audience. Then Frick is being threatened by Kroger (M. Emmet Walsh), a government operative who demands to read Frick’s account of the March 2 thing. Frick insists if they’d just let him go, he could go home and WRITE it, but that’s not an option.
Imagine “Alice in Wonderland” if Lewis Carroll had ingested even more hallucinogens than he already did, and if he had ramped up the perv factor. (Do you want to see a closetful of Barbie-genitaled Taryn Manning clones? Then you’re in luck!) Imagine Watergate-era paranoia and mistrust filtered through a campy, surreal mindscape. Imagine a supporting performance by former porn star Traci Lords as Frick’s angry, dowdy ex-wife.
Frick finds himself encountering situations that he had previously described in his fiction, and it seems like everyone wants a piece of him. “Your Name Here” is ultimately another “writer as God” story, albeit one with loopy logic and a patience-trying devotion to its own weirdness. This sort of thing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea — and even if it is, this might not be a very good batch of it. Though Wilder makes nice use of some long Steadicam shots to suggest Frick’s dreamy, meandering mind, he never makes a convincing case for why we should care what happens to Frick. After all, why get emotionally involved if literally anything can happen next?
The film may be a misfire, but you have to admire Pullman’s commitment to his character. He’s been doing some of these smaller, more unusual films lately, including the gangster comedy “You Kill Me” and this year’s Sundance darling “Phoebe in Wonderland.” It’s a good fit for him. If nothing else, it’s a way to showcase his talents. Not everyone could play a drug-addled hallucinogenic sci-fi writer quite this convincingly.
C (1 hr., 46 min.; )