Release: 5th February 2017
A straitlaced businessman meets a quirky, free-spirited woman at a downtown New York greasy spoon. Her offer of a ride back to his office results in a lunchtime motel rendezvous-just the beginning of a capricious interstate road trip that brings the two face-to-face with their hidden selves. Featuring a killer soundtrack and electric performances from Jeff Daniels, Melanie Griffith, and Ray Liotta, Something Wild, directed by oddball American auteur Jonathan Demme, is both a kinky comic thriller and a radiantly off-kilter love story.
Jonathan Demme was a director who refused to be pigeonholed. Here is a man who in one career made comedies, horrors, thrillers, dramas, musicals and more. To say that Demme had eclectic tastes is an under statement. It is fitting then that Criterion should choose to immortalise Demme’s screwball comedy Something Wild. Because here is a film with more mood changes than a 13 year old.
Something Wild starts with a run and doesn’t really slow down for quite some time. Questions barely have a chance to be raised before they are sidelined by something else entirely. Jeff Daniels’ Charlie; introduced sneaking a free lunch, doesn’t even breath before he is whisked away by the truly bizarre Audrey. Then just as soon as this offbeat raunchy nihilism begins, it is sidelined for a sweet natured grassroots comedy. Things eventually evolve again and the tone shifts once more. Amongst this chaos, the narrative makes little attempt to present itself, while the film’s intention and obstacle only really pop up once Ray Liotta’s playfully wicked Ray Sinclair arrives. In today’s market, this would be pitched as Knocked Up meets Pretty Woman via Fatal Attraction.
As a story, Something Wild holds up relatively well, it’s reggae infused bohemian vibe still a countercultural touchstone. There may be plenty of energy on display, but it is hard to see the point of it all, as Something Wild is relatively unfocused. In spite of this, the film’s legacy is evident. Following in the footsteps of Badlands, Something Wild has fathered many offspring; from True Romance to Wild at Heart. So although this might not be Demme’s best film, it is easily a calling card. A fitting tribute to a truly original voice of cinema.
Film Grade: C+
Two Interviews offer a few insights in to the film’s genesis and production. if nothing else, it is nice to see Demme talking about his own work.
Special Features Grade: C–
Jonathan Demme will long be remembered for fun little zingers such as this.