Wild at Heart

Wild at Heart ★★★


If the opening fifteen minutes don’t sit well with you, it would be safe to call it a day and chalk this up as a loss. The film in its entirety is little more than a cyclic reverberation of those inaugurating elements—a repetitious devolution into a world inhibited by caricatures, not people, lacking in lawmen but not in evil, painted with violence, surrealism, and red-hot snake-skin imagery. As Lynch films often do, it ignores the science of reasoning but could not care less about doing so. Where else would a rock band completely halt their set list to let a lowly patron tell off the man who was dancing with his woman and then proceed to hand the mic over to the white knight and allow him to ad-lib an Elvis serenade? Revolving perpetually between a constant stream of shady contemporaries, vacuous heart-to-heart conversations, balls-to-the-walls lovemaking, and savage confrontations, Nick Cage is having the time of his life, and I can't recall a role of his I enjoy more than this one, (maybe H.I. McDunnough?). Laura Dern is having a riot, too, nailing the exaggerated Southern Rube persona with enough hyperbole to fit snugly inside of Lynch's misshapen microcosm. Most impressive casting member, however, is Willem Dafoe; while not as instantly memorable as Lynch's other "Creepy Ominous Bad Guys" (cf. Frank Booth, or LOST HIGHWAY's Mystery Man), he’s every bit as gloriously hammy and overplayed to perfection, rotting teeth and all. It's a wild ride, but also a wheel-spinning one; it works in spurts but fails to coalesce into something greater. The constant flicker of matches, the flashbacks to a burning house, the close-ups of painted asphalt—everything pointing upward to a story that remains half-told and malnourished. Had me going for a while—especially the way Lynch mines impossibly uncomfortable strain from e.g. Dafoe getting handsy with Dern in a motel room—but wore me down by the end. Final “epiphany” is kind of silly, too, even in the context of everything happening around it.

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