Film Review: Wild at Heart (1990)

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David Lynch’s surreal cinematic mash-up of love and depravity won the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious Palme d’Or. It’s a simple story about two fierce lovers, Sailor and Lula (Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern) who try to keep their heads above water in a world gone, almost literally, to Hell. The overt Wizard of Oz references serve as a constant reminder that you’re watching a morality tale — think Grimms’, but with more doggy-style and exploding heads. The lack of subtlety may be pretentious, but it’s interesting to see adult themes like redemption and sexual desire forced into fable.

Sailor and Lula are on the run from Lula’s insane mother, Marietta Fortune. Marietta is played Dern’s real life momma, Diane Ladd. It’s a manic, mesmerizing, and frightening performance which earned Ladd an Oscar nomination. There’s one particularly inspired sequence in which Marietta is applying bright red lipstick while looking in her vanity mirror. Before she’s finished, rage consumes her and she ends up coating her entire face. And, yes, you will see Marietta depicted as the Wicked Witch of the West.

Willem Dafoe is also memorable as Bobby Peru, a creepy character with nubby teeth who coerces Lula and Sailor to indulge in their darkest desires. And in what may be the most bizarre scene in the film, Crispin Glover plays Lula’s cousin Dell, a deranged young man who can’t stop making sandwiches or putting cockroaches in his underwear.

As utterly twisted as Wild at Heart may be — er, is — David Lynch washes the storytelling with a passionate, operatic tone and directs with an exquisite attention to detail in all the aesthetic departments. The result is a film with a distinct, dichotomous point of view, equal parts beautiful and horrifying.

Rating: 4.25/5 ★★★★¼ 

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About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)

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