3 Stars
Year Released: 2011
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 113 minutes
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I had never seen “Something Wild” before receiving this DVD and plopping it in my player. However, I like director Jonathan Demme and actors Jeff Daniels and Ray Liotta, so I thought I’d give it a shot. After the closing credits rolled, I have to admit I wondered why Criterion scooped this up: it’s good, but not great. Perhaps Demme’s indie credentials had something to do with it.

Daniels plays Charles Driggs, a suit-and-tie-clad corporate vice-president who walks out of a corner restaurant without paying his bill, drawing the attention of a woman named Lulu who lives her life moment by moment. Lulu looks and acts like Madonna as interpreted by a SoHo artist, and she decides to have a little fun with her new friend. It’s a typical “meet cute” kind of opening.

Lulu takes Charles on an interstate road trip during which painful truths are revealed and Lulu’s ex-husband Ray, played by Ray Liotta, becomes obsessed with winning her back. Charles has fallen for Lulu, whose real name is revealed to be Audrey, and he decides he won’t let her go without a fight. Literally. While the first half of the film is light and carefree, the second half takes a much darker turn.

As I said, “Something Wild” is good, not great. My biggest issue had to do with Charles deciding he needed to risk his life for Audrey: I couldn’t understand what he saw in her that made him want to get her back, rather than take the opportunity to get away from her and Ray. Sure, you could argue that there’s a moral imperative at play, but that could just as easily be satisfied by calling the police.

I also didn’t understand why he would want to forsake his current life, including his children, to be with her in the end. If he truly wanted to explore his wild side, he could do that without giving up everything. Plenty of strait-laced businessmen engage in funky extracurricular activities — I’m sure you can find lots of Ralphs in Accounting who become Leo the Horned One in an S&M dungeon at night.

You may feel differently, though, and if you’re a fan of any of the film’s principal creatives, “Something Wild” is at least worth a rental. This DVD includes interviews with Demme and screenwriter E. Max Frye, along with the theatrical trailer. Both of the interviews do a nice job of illuminating the film, particularly Demme’s, in which he explains the collaborative spirit that brought about some of the film’s better moments. The included booklet contains an essay by film writer David Thompson.

Posted on May 17, 2011 in Reviews by

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