Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, Crispin Glover, Diane Ladd, Isabella Rossellini, Harry Dean Stanton, Sherilyn Fenn, John Lurie, Jack Nance, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Sheryl Lee
Written by: Barry Gifford, David Lynch, based on the novel by Barry Gifford
Directed by: David Lynch
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 124
Date: 05/01/1990

Wild at Heart (1990)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Wizard of Odd

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Adapted from Barry Gifford's novel, Wild at Heart mixes a little The Wizard of Oz with a dash of Elvis and becomes David Lynch's least engaging film. Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern star as Sailor and Lula, a delinquent couple dripping with chemistry. These beautiful star-crossed lovers hit the highway after Lula's mother (Diane Ladd) puts out a contract on Sailor's life. Willem Dafoe co-stars and is at his most menacingly psychotic as Bobby Peru, a reptilian fiend who tricks Sailor into joining him on an ill-fated robbery. Isabella Rossellini, Harry Dean Stanton, Crispin Glover, Jack Nance, Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee and others appear in supporting roles or cameos.

Gifford's screenplay goes for narrative thrust, but Lynch continually draws the focus away with his calculated bits of weirdness. When he's on track, though, the film shines with a gaudy beauty, and it snatched up the Cannes Film Festival's coveted Palme d'Or. Diane Ladd was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role, but lost to Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost. Additionally, Wild at Heart brought international fame to San Francisco pop singer Chris Isaak with its effective use of the song "Wicked Game," while Fenn and Lee starred in Lynch's amazing television series "Twin Peaks" the same year. Lynch and Gifford found an even more symbiotic relationship on their next collaboration, Lost Highway (1997).

MGM/UA's 2004 DVD release this film to maximum glory, highlighting its ghastly reds and glimmery golds, with Cage's jet-black t-shirt standing between the two. Lynch explains the painstaking process behind the DVD in a short featurette, which definitely helps the layperson in appreciating it. Other extras include interviews, a new making-of documentary as well as the original featurette from the EPK (electronic press kit), trailers and TV spots and a photo gallery. Lynch does not contribute a commentary track, but the disc includes a 7-minute "focus" on the great director, featuring interviews with the cast and crew. In 2015, Kino Lorber resurrected the DVD, with most of the same extras.

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