WILD AT HEART
Review by Michael Jacobson
Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, Willem Dafoe, Harry Dean Stanton,
Crispin Glover, Isabella Rossellini, Grace Zabriskie
Director: David Lynch
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 124 Minutes
Release Date: December 7, 2004
you are, crossing state lines with an A-number one certified murderer.”
honey, not murderer. Don’t
at Heart is
your basic love story where the boy reminds you of Elvis and the girl seems like
Marilyn, and where their love takes them on a Yellow Brick Road through a hell
peopled with freaks and psychopaths, and where violence is as sudden and
gruesome as it is funny. Or maybe I
should have just said it was a David Lynch film and saved myself a bit of
arrived in theatres in the summer of 1990 on the heels of his first successful
television season of Twin Peaks, and carrying the top prize of the Cannes
Film Festival. For true fans of
David Lynch, it was a wildly unsettling, frequently hilarious and often
mesmerizing mind trip typical of what they’d come to expect from the
surrealistic director. For the more
casual fans of his recent television work…well, I’m quite sure they didn’t
know what to make of it.
on a novel by Barry Gifford, Lynch’s screenplay turned the story of lovers on
the run into a drama that seems part Romeo and Juliet and part Wizard
of Oz. It has all the elements
of a romance, a road picture, a gangster flick and an Elvis Presley musical
movie, but just enough of each to create something that doesn’t seem like any
one of them overall, especially when spiced up with Lynch’s wicked sense of
(Cage) loves Lula (Dern), but the road ahead isn’t smoothly paved for the
star-crossed lovers. In an opening
sequence that’s become a cult classic on its own, a knife-wielding hit man
hired by Lula’s mother Marietta (Dern’s real life mother Ladd) tries to take
out Sailor, who in turn beats the fellow to a bloody mess with his bare hands.
Huffing and puffing, he lights a cigarette and glowers at Marietta in an
exaggerated stance. Despite the shocking bit of violence we just witnessed, we
can’t help but chuckle.
goes to jail, but the story picks up when he gets out.
Unable to keep her daughter from him, Marietta tries to arrange for
another hit…this time with a much more dangerous gang lord.
Sailor and Lula decide to hit the road and head west, in violation of his
the way, Sailor and Lula dance, have lots of sex, drive, and have soul-baring
conversations that are sometimes both touching and amusing at the same time.
Over the course of the film, they’ll learn new things about each other,
and they’ll learn that love can indeed conquer all, even if the world, as Lula
puts it, is “wild at heart and weird on top”.
not so much the plot that attracts in a David Lynch film…that’s pretty much
just a map from A to Z…instead, it’s the sights along the way.
Lynch never takes his viewers down a straight, empty highway, but rather
uses the scenic routes, and his scenes are filled with strange images and
unsettling characters. Who could ever forget Crispin Glover and his counter filled
with mushed sandwiches (or the roaches in his underpants), or Grace
Zabriskie’s demonic drive to mix sex and death, or especially Willem Dafoe’s
repulsive turn alone with Laura Dern…or for that matter, his dramatic exit
from the film where he TRULY loses his mind?
best David Lynch film’s are like watching somebody’s dream unfold before
you. You can’t always ascribe
meaning or sense in the most comfortable definitions of the words to what you
see, but his images and ideas tend to resonate in your subconscious while you
watch and for a long period afterwards. It’s
the kind of experience that will enthrall some and infuriate others, but no
matter how you judge it, it’s almost always the furthest from a typical night
at the movies as you can get.
fans of Twin Peaks mostly didn’t pick up the clues…sure, Lynch is
capable of creating a story with quirky but likeable characters and a running
thread of mystery, but the actual point of his television show was about how
strange, surreal and sometimes dangerous things lurk just beneath the surface of
a docile façade. There were dark
secrets dwelling underneath his vision of small town America, and in Wild at
Heart, he really puts the gothic in Southern Gothic, relying on the
audience’s affinity for his two lead characters to guide them through.
many of his films, Wild at Heart seems aimed squarely at the hearts of
David Lynch fans, with a bead so sure that it’s not likely to hit many other
targets along the way. It’s not
quite the masterpiece of Mulholland Drive or Blue Velvet, but for
the adventurous, it offers more than a generous share of twisted, extraordinary
BONUS TRIVIA I: Look for Twin Peaks stars Sherilyn Fenn and Sheryl Lee in small roles.
BONUS TRIVIA II: This is the film that introduced Chris Isaak and his immortal song "Wicked Game" to the world!
BONUS TRIVIA III: Nicholas Cage does his own singing
in the movie.
new anamorphic transfer from the original negatives was supervised by David
Lynch, and the resulting DVD looks quite good.
Colors are sharper and more striking than in any other home video
presentation I can recall. A couple
of darker scenes show a bit of grain, but that’s likely the fault of the
source material. A bit of shimmer
can be seen around the edges from time to time, but it’s very infrequent and
not really a distraction.
5.1 mix is also new, and Wild at Heart sounds wilder than ever.
Matches flare up and sound like raging forest fires, the music both roars
and purrs out of the speakers, and ambient sounds make up David Lynch’s
strange aural landscapes…everything works cleanly and clearly, with
intelligible dialogue, good dynamic range, and plenty of punch from the
subwoofer. Nicely done.
Special Edition DVD from MGM is well-packaged, and though David Lynch still
refrains from commentary tracks, his extra participation on this disc is both
evident and welcome. In a new
documentary, he discusses the film, and is featured along with most of the cast
members sharing their memories. For
more information, there are also extended interview bits you can peruse.
featurette on David Lynch showcases cast and crew members discussing what it’s
like to work for him and offers insights into his creative process.
Lynch also speaks in a clip about the efforts to restore and remaster his
movie for digital preservation. Rounding
out are the original 1990 making-of featurette, trailer and TV spots, an image
gallery, and some cool animated menus with sound.