Remember when Nicolas Cage wasn’t a sell-out? His sell by date was 1995 with Leaving Las Vegas and he’s still forcing the world to swill down his sour-ass milk. Let’s go back to a more innocent time when Cage was still capable of exciting, unhinged performances like the one he delivered in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990), an unexpectedly explosive adaptation of Barry Gifford’s unadorned novel, which went on to win the coveted Palme d’Or at that year’s Cannes Film Festival. At its core, Lynch’s film is a passionate love story between a couple whose love for each other remains constant despite all of the obstacles that life throws at them, including a psychotically over-protective mother, a dentally-challenged psychopath, and a grizzled rocket scientist.
Sailor Ripley (Nicolas Cage) and Lula Pace Fortune (Laura Dern) are young lovers on the run from her mother,
Cage plays Sailor as an instantly iconic figure, where pointing an accusing finger at
At this point in his career, Cage gravitated to oddball roles like this (Vampire’s Kiss anyone?). There is a show-stopping moment where Sailor and Lula go see speed metal band Powermad at a nightclub and a guy dances too close to her. Sailor gets the band to stop in mid-song and orders the man to apologize. Naturally, he refuses and Sailor delivers a well-deserved smackdown to the hapless guy. As if that wasn’t cool enough, he then instructs Powermad to back him on a note perfect rendition of “Love Me” while the women in the audience scream in adoration in surreal slow motion like something out of a dream. Cage not only pulls off this performance but makes it look good. It is also an important scene in that it demonstrates Sailor’s love for Lula and his willingness to back it up with action.
Wild at Heart is arguably one of the most romantic characters that Cage has ever portrayed. While most people remember the actor’s wild antics in this film, he also displays a tender, sensitive side when he’s alone with Dern. There is real chemistry between these two actors which is crucial as their characters are supposed to be deeply in love. Cage also demonstrated his ability to tap into the equally idiosyncratic sensibility of David Lynch at a time when the filmmaker was a pop culture darling thanks to the
Here's Sailor in action: