Posted by: ckckred | January 27, 2014

Wild at Heart

"True Romance"

“True Romance”

Wild at Heart is a lot of things, a satire of teenage romance, a crime thriller, and a parody of The Wizard of Oz.  Director David Lynch has stirred all these various ingredients to a satisfying but somewhat disappointing end result that’s not near the mastery of the filmmaker’s other pictures.  Lynch succeeded with his oddball look at the dread behind the curtains of the American suburbia in Blue Velvet, which Wild at Heart bears in tone but lacks the same emotional punch.  There are plenty of strong ideas in the film but not enough coherence to create a strong enough narrative between them.  Still, Wild at Heart is an energetic romp that’s a violent and erotic thrill-ride.

The opening of Wild at Heart serves as a mighty introduction for the characters, as Sailor Ripley (Nic Cage), who speaks and dresses like Elvis Presley, beats a man to death to the shock of those around him before pulling out a cigarette in a sweaty huff.  That man was hired by Marietta Fortune (Diane Ladd) to kill off Sailor since she disapproves of him seeing her daughter Lula (Lynch regular Laura Dern).  After serving time in prison for manslaughter, Sailor takes Lula away for a cross-country road trip all the way from New Orleans to California.  Marietta angrily responds by putting a bounty on Sailor in an effort to get her daughter back home.

The love between Sailor and Lula is much like that of Bonnie and Clyde, they’re two outlaws and misfits trying to discover their place in society.  The two visit nightclubs and meet sideshows on the road why listening to metal and having sex in cheap motels.  Both try to discover the world on their own and soon they realize more about the danger of living on the road as well as themselves.

As any Lynch movie there’s plenty of shining moments and scenes, such as a rendition of “Love Me” done by Cage, but there’s nothing quite as stirring as the thing behind the dumpster in Mulholland Dr. or the radiator girl in Eraserhead, nor is there a strong enough connection between scenes and I thought some major plot points were passed off for a long period of time (spoilers: the lengthy disappearance of Marietta in the middle of the picture and the involvement of Sailor in Lula’s father’s death for example).

However, these bumps aside, Wild at Heart is very well done.  The chemistry between Cage and Dern keeps the movie from growing too unstable (Cage is particularly good at keeping between the lines of humor and violence; his character is often absurdly funny and unexpectedly violent).  And William Dafoe steals scenes in his small role as a small town criminal Sailor and Lula encounter who is more than what he appears.

While it’s not up to Lynch’s usual high standards and lacks the vigor of Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, I much enjoyed Wild at Heart.  It’s an incomplete and somewhat unfocused picture but there’s much to like.

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Responses

  1. This was the last of his theatrical filmography I saw last year (and the hardest to find). It’s not my favorite but one I should revisit. Then again, with David Lynch and the sudden Internet fascination of the man who is Nicolas Cage, anything could happen here.

    • I’ve seen all but The Elephant Man and I think I’d put this as one of his weakest, though it’s good altogether. Cage deserves a lot of praise.

  2. Nice review. It’s been a while since I watched this but I remember enjoying it a lot; I like Cage when he’s at his quirkiest. I think it was the first Lynch film I saw after watching Twin Peaks on TV.

    • Thanks! Cage was really on fire back in the 90s, too bad he now takes any script he can.

  3. I like Wild At Heart but as you say, it’s one of Lynch’s lesser efforts – stylistically, its excellent but seems unfocused and doesn’t really nail that Lynch-surreal-vibe that is done so well in movies like Blue Velvet and even Lost Highway. Nice review though.

    • Thanks! I agree, the surrealism doesn’t quite work as well as Lynch’s other movies. It’s good but it could have been better.

  4. Nice review. I thought it was an okay movie. I haven’t seen it in some time though.

    • Thanks! It’s good but ultimately not quite at Lynch’s high standard.

  5. Good review. I have been meaning to see some of Lynch’s less heralded work, an intention of which you have just reminded me. As such, this is hitting the list.

    • Thanks! It’s a good movie and while I would recommend it, I would call it one of Lynch’s weakest.

  6. I haven’t seen this one yet, sad to hear it doesn’t measure up to Lynch’s usual standards but it makes sense as I haven’t heard it talked about that much. I must say, I’m interested to see Nic Cage in a Lynch film though. Nice review!

    • Thanks! I was a bit disappointed, though it’s a good movie altogether. Cage is particularly strong, I would like to see him in another Lynch film.

  7. Great review. Been meaning to see this because it’s directed by Lynch and stars Dafoe, thanks for the reminder.

    • Thanks! Gotta love Lynch and Dafoe.

  8. #Cagewatch! One of his great performances

    • Cage was really great back in the 90s. It’s hard to believe that the same guy in Wild at Heart was in The Wicker Man.

      • Yeah. I was a massive fan back then. Now my friends (and me) think my crush was weird.

  9. I generally agree with your take, but I actually enjoyed Wild at Heart more than Blue Velvet. It just felt so out of control and chaotic that I couldn’t help but go with it. Plus, the actors are all going so far over the top (especially Cage and DaFoe), that it just really worked for me.

    • The chaotic feel to it really delivers strong performance but I think Blue Velvet is much more focused. Still a good movie though.

  10. One of Lynch’s more normal films, which isn’t really saying much, but definitely makes for an entertaining watch, if only because you can actually tell what’s going on here. Although, there are some strange bits that show up nonetheless. Good review.

    • Thanks! Yeah, it’s probably one of his least surreal movies. I liked it, though not quite as much as his other work.

  11. God, what a crazy film. Love it though and Cage has never been better.

    • I really liked it, though not as much as Lynch’s other movies. I agree this is one of Cage’s best performances, makes me wish he would work with Lynch on another film.

  12. This movie never clicked with me, although I am somewhat of a Cage fan, and like Lynch to some degree. I found it to be style over substance – as if Lynch wanted to show how kooky and weird he can be, instead of focusing more on the plot.

    Dorian

    • I’m a big fan of Lynch and like Cage’s older work, but this didn’t work for me as well as I hoped. I think the plot could have used some more work but the film was good overall.

  13. Love it! This is a total wild ride from Lynch. A lot more linear than he usually does but there are so many great characters and individual scenes. I really need to revisit this. It’s been so long.

    • I liked it, though not quite as much as Lynch’s other movies, though it features many memorable bits.

  14. I do wish Cage would do more things like this than try to be a action star in a poor mainstream big budget movie. He can be terrific when he has edgy material. That said, I do love the first National Treasure movie.

    • Cage does seem to do action movies now only for a quick pay check. For shame since he’s a strong actor.

  15. Oh this is one of Nic Cage’s films I missed out on, this one and Raising Arizone. Lynch’s stuff is usually not my cup of tea but I might give this one a shot.

    • This is probably a bit easier to watch than Lynch’s other movies since it’s pretty linear but I prefer his more surreal stuff, though Cage is excellent. Thanks for the comment.

  16. […] 9. Wild at Heart […]


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