"...the main purpose of criticism...is not to make its readers agree, nice as that is, but to make them, by whatever orthodox or unorthodox method, think." - John Simon
"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity." - George Orwell
Monday, May 9, 2011
DVD of the Week: Something Wild: Criterion Collection
Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels) is a straight-laced banker whose idea of rebellion is skipping out of a diner without paying for the check. This catches the eye of Lulu (Melanie Griffith), a beautiful woman who sports a Louise Brooks hairdo and is decked out in African-themed Bohemian attire. She playfully confronts him about his act of rebellion and then proceeds to “kidnap” the hapless man under the auspices of showing him a good time. Charlie protests initially but there is something about this strange woman that he finds intriguing. Maybe it’s her exotic nature or her knack for spontaneity. Before he knows it, they’ve rented a motel room in New Jersey and are having sex while he’s handcuffed to the bed.
It’s all an attempt to loosen Charlie up and get him out of his comfort zone. Lulu is a New Wave music femme fatale and he likes the way she makes him feel – both physically and emotionally. So much so, that he ends up going to her hometown in Pennsylvania where she reveals her name to actually be Audrey. We, much like Charlie, are waiting to see what she does next. It’s safe to say that Audrey is not what she appears to be and, for that matter, neither is Charlie as we eventually find out. At her class reunion, they run into her psychotic estranged husband Ray (Ray Liotta), which puts Charlie’s newfound confidence to the test.
Jeff Daniels is quite good as the hopelessly square Charlie. His transformation from boring banker to impulsive free spirit is well done. The actor manages to keep us interested in Charlie and keep us wondering what motivates him to leave his safe existence behind. Something Wild really belongs to Melanie Griffith and her portrayal of a chronic liar who gets her kicks breaking the law. It’s a completely uninhibited performance and one of, if not her signature role. Its success led to her most high profile role to date – Working Girl (1988).
Ray Liotta is the film’s scene-stealer as the unhinged Ray. The actor has that great crazy laugh and a glint in his eyes that suggests he is not someone you want to piss off. You can tell that Liotta is having an absolute blast playing this crazy guy. Astute observers will also spot filmmakers John Sayles and John Waters in amusing cameos as well as veteran character actors Tracey Walter and Charles Napier in small but memorable roles.
For a Criterion Collection release there is a disappoint number of extras.
There is a 33-minute interview with director Jonathan Demme where he starts off talking about the genesis of Something Wild. After coming off the debacle of making Swing Shift (1984), he was ready to quite the movie business but he read the screenplay for Something Wild and it got him excited about making films again. He talks about the look, the casting and many other aspects of the film in this engaging interview.
Also interviewed is the film’s screenwriter E. Max Frye. He talks about what inspired him to write the script. At the time, he lived in the East Village in New York City and drew from artists there.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.