Sunday, 28 February 2010

You Got Me Hotter Than Georgia Asphalt.

I'm a big David Lynch fan. Mulholland Drive is one of my favourite films. Twin Peaks is one of my favourite television shows. Blue Velvet, The Elephant Man - love 'em.

So it was with a great deal of expectation that I approached his Wild At Heart, his 1990 picture that brought him home the Palme d'Or. And... maybe my expectation did bad things. It just didn't really do it for me.

Sure, it was filled with Lynchian moments, but even they seemed a bit dulled down. Yes, it was over the top, the performances were extreme and caricatured in his distinctively twisted way. But it didn't have the through-line I wanted, it didn't leave me gasping with want for clarity, it didn't seem to have everything and anything going on below the surface. It seemed, in a way, to almost be a straight story told in a kooky way. And David, you're better than that.

Nicholas Cage plays Sailor, a con released back into the arms of his lover Lula (Laura Dern.) Very much against the wishes of Lula's nymphomaniac alcoholic mother Marietta (Diane Ladd) the two run off to California, trailed by private investigator Johnnie (Harry Dean Stanton), who has been in love with Lula for a long time, and gangster Marcelles Santos (J.E. Freeman), both hired independently by Marietta. En route, Sailor and Lula come across the aftermath of a car accident, with the lone survivor dying in front of them, which Lula sees as a bad omen and begs to stop at a town called Big Tuna in Texas to rest up for a bit - she's also become quite ill, strangely mostly in the morning...

While there, Sailor drops in on an old friend Perdita (Isabella Rossellini), as he's strapped for cash and hoping to make some more. He also meets Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe), an intriguing character working with Perdita who asks him to go in on a simple feed store job for some quick cash. After Bobby blows away the two clerks unnecessarily, he announces that he's been hired to kill Sailor before being shot by sheriff officers who have turned up at the scene, then accidentally (and quite graphically) blowing his own head off. Sailor is arrested and spends another five years in jail whilst his young son with Lula grows up. Lula and child meet Sailor at the train station on his release, and Sailor quickly realises that he is not what they need now, before being beaten up by a street gang, discovering with a Wizard Of Oz hallucination that he is wrong, and runs over car roofs back to Lula, singing to her as the credits roll.

You see? It just doesn't quite sound crazy enough. And it plays so straight as well. Cage is fine as Sailor, playing an early installment of the same character he will riff off for a long time, while Dern is similarly acceptable as Lula, though somewhat over the top to the extent where any semblance of truth in her character kind of drowns (except for the late scene at the train station, which I found strangely moving.) The real highlights were Ladd as the mother (netting an Oscar nomination) and Dafoe as Bobby, beautifully chilling, seedy, sleazy and memorable.

Other than that, though, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot to say about the film. It's just not particularly memorable, really. Muddles its way through without a great deal of remarkability. 2.5 stars.

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