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Jonathan Demme
Jeff Daniels, Melanie Griffith, Ray Liotta,
Writing Credits:
E. Max Frye

A straitlaced businessman meets a quirky, free-spirited woman at a downtown New York greasy spoon and go on a capricious interstate road trip that brings the two face-to-face with their hidden selves.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$1.825 million on 914 screens.
Domestic Gross
$7.313 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 5/10/2011

• Interview with Director Jonathan Demme
• Interview with Screenwriter E. Max Frye
• Trailer

• 16-Page Booklet


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Something Wild: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1986)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 3, 2011)

Perhaps I’m alone, but I always got Something Wild and After Hours confused. Both offered rather similar stories/characters, both came out with 13 months of each other in 1985 and 1986, and both were directed by notable American filmmakers. Heck, I associate the two so closely that I thought I’d already reviewed Wild!

Nope – this screening of the 1986 flick stands as my first in years. I doubt I’ve seen Something Wild since 1987 or 1988. I thought 1985’s After Hours was one of Martin Scorsese’s worst flicks, so I’m curious to decide if Wild deserves such a spot in Jonathan Demme’s Hall of Shame.

Buttoned-down on the outside, yuppie businessman Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels) maintains a mild inner rebellious streak that he lets out with action such as an occasional eat and dash. When he skips out on a check at a diner, fellow customer Lulu (Melanie Griffith) chases after him and calls him out on his crime.

She does this mostly for kicks, though, as she doesn’t care about his action. Instead, Lulu offers Charles a ride back to work – and promptly kidnaps him. Even though he’s married with kids, they end up at a motel for some passion, and they continue on a romp that leads them into a number of adventures – as well as growing affection for each other.

Despite all the similarities I mentioned earlier, I had higher hopes for Something Wild over After Hours just because the tale seems like a better match for Demme than for Scorsese, at least as pursued in these films. Both go for such a 1980s New Wave feel that they’re much closer to Demme’s style than Scorsese’s, so if anyone should pull off the material, Demme should be the man.

Or maybe not. Perhaps I’m just not a fan of the “wild woman latches onto repressed guy” field – God knows I hated Harold and Maude, one of the kings of this genre – but I can’t say that I take much enjoyment from Wild.

Though I do think it improves on After Hours, partly because it’s less predictable. The first half follows a pretty typical genre template, but once Lulu’s nutbag ex Ray (Ray Liotta) enters the picture mid-film, it veers off in a different, darker direction.

But is it a more satisfying direction? Yeah, to a degree, but it’s not enough to redeem an overly long, slow movie. A flick like this probably should be quick and breezy; the tone change mid-movie gives it more of an excuse to run more than 90 minutes, but it’s not enough to fill 113 minutes.

The draggy pace is just one problem, though, as the film’s contrived feel is also an issue. When we learn that Charlie is a “closet rebel”, that just comes across like a plot machination to allow us to accept his willingness to go along with Lulu’s escapades. This seems unnecessary, though; we’ve had enough movies like this to swallow the stretch in logic, so we don’t need any kind of explanation. If anything, the attempt to validate Charlie’s embrace of his adventure hurts the character, as this choice feels so tacked on and gratuitous.

It doesn’t help that Wild usually doesn’t feel all that wild. Most of the shenanigans seem tame and without much pizzazz. Really, running out of a restaurant without paying a check – again – is a big set piece?

Wild attempts to give us something deeper than just wacky capers, though, as it includes the blossoming relationship between Charlie and Lulu. This doesn’t really work, as it’s never particularly clear what they see in each other. They grow to love each other because the movie says they should, not because of any clear natural reason.

At least the flick boasts a good cast – well, some of it, that is. I like Daniels, and Liotta delivers a typically unhinged turn as a psycho, but I can’t get past Griffith’s wooden performance. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any work from her that impressed me, and she continues to come across as stiff and forced here. She never presents herself as a natural person. Griffith always feels like she’s Consciously Acting – and Consciously Acting poorly.

Even with a better lead actress, though, I don’t think Something Wild would’ve been much more interesting. I like its willingness to subvert genre expectations, but it doesn’t do much beyond that. It’s too long and too slow to keep us with it.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C

Something Wild appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Flicks from the mid-1980s can provide very hit or miss visuals, but Wild offered positive picture quality.

Sharpness looked nice. From start to finish, the flick appeared concise and detailed, without any notable softness on display. Jagged edges and shimmering were absent, and I also noticed no edge enhancement. Source flaws failed to become an issue in this clean presentation.

Wild went with a natural palette that looked good. The colors consistently seemed solid, as the film’s hues came across well. Blacks were dark and tight, and low-light shots generally appeared solid. A few shadows were a little on the bland side – mostly due to some dodgy day for night photography - but not to a significant degree. While the movie still had that “1980s Look”, it didn’t suffer from any of the usual drawbacks.

As for the DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack of Wild, it seemed perfectly adequate. Music dominated the soundscape, as the score and songs showed decent to good stereo imaging. In addition, environmental effects cropped up throughout the movie. These didn’t add much pizzazz, but they spread information across the front and rear speakers in a reasonable manner. Though nothing here impressed, the soundfield was fine for this sort of film.

Audio quality also fell into the same domain. Speech was consistently natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music wasn’t terribly dynamic, but the songs and score showed decent clarity and range. Effects were also a minor consideration that appeared fairly accurate but not particularly strong. All of this was good enough for an age-affected “B-“.

Given the standards of most Criterion releases, Something Wild skimps on extras. In addition to the film’s trailer, we get two separate Interviews. These come from director Jonathan Demme (33:15) and screenwriter E. Max Frye (9:19). During his chat, Demme discusses how he came onto the project and what appealed to him about it, cinematography and visual design, cast, characters and performances, music and stunts. As for Frye, he covers the origins and development of the story plus thoughts about Demme, the cast, inspirations and rewrites.

Of the two interviews, Demme’s offers the most content – which one expects since it runs nearly four times longer. Demme gives us a nice overview of different subjects; it’s too bad he didn’t record a full commentary. Frye adds a few choice notes of his own and delivers a short but informative piece.

Like all Criterion packages, Wild also includes a booklet. In this 16-page affair, we get an essay from film writer David Thompson. This is a good text, though I would’ve liked more than just one article; most Criterion booklets provide additional material.

Shouldn’t a movie called Something Wild be pretty… well, wild? Instead, this one seems rather slow and plodding, without much vivacity or adventure to bring it to life. The Blu-ray offers very nice visuals as well as acceptable audio and a small set of supplements. The relative lack of bonus materials disappoints, but at least the movie looks and sounds good.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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