Some may call 'Something Wild' a quirky road trip, rom-com film that dabbles in the bizarre nuttiness that is life. I, on the other hand, don't think so highly of it. Jonathan Demme's 'Something Wild' truly isn't my cup of tea. It seems to me that it's got major tonal problems. The movie starts out light and airy with a hint of 80s quirkiness, but soon it spins wildly out of control on its way to becoming a bizarre danger-filled drama featuring blood, violence, and torture. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that all these aspects cannot exist in the same movie, but the way they're constructed here doesn't make sense. 'Something Wild' seems disjointed and confused as it abruptly changes its mind about what it wants to be about halfway through the film.
Charlie Driggs (Jeff Daniels) is a young businessman in New York who's just been named VP of his company. Somewhere deep inside the seemingly inconsequential man is a rebellious streak. A side of himself that he shows after he tries to skip out on a miniscule check at a restaurant. Lulu (Melanie Griffith) catches Charlie trying to sneak out without paying, and confronts him on the street. Only she doesn't work for the restaurant. No, she's just looking for an unwitting man to kidnap so she can take him on a wacky road trip.
Lulu is intentionally vague with just about everything she does. She sucks Charlie in like a pro. After only a few hours, Charlie is enamored with her. Lulu speaks in hushed breathy tones that give her an air of mystery. She's definitely interesting. Why has she just kidnapped this man? Where is she taking him? And what is the power that she has over him?
It's a good thing Lulu picked Charlie. Any other man might have not gone along for the ride, but Charlie is in a stage of his life (that I dare not reveal now) that makes him a prime candidate for a life-affirming road trip.
'Something Wild' spends much of its first half making sure we know just how mysterious Lulu is. She rips off a liquor store, drives while intoxicated, and throws Charlie on the bed the very first time she gets a chance to jump on top of him. For Charlie, this is the best thing that's ever happened to him, but you've got to wonder what in the world is in it for Lulu? I'm not sure we ever figure that out.
About halfway through the movie, once it's done with all its cutesy "Hey this girl sure is nutty" routine it turns dark. Enter Ray (Ray Liotta), who has a certain attachment to Lulu. Is he another man that was sucked in by her mysterious charisma? There's something that's just not right about him. We know he's up to no good though, because he's the only one who wears black in the movie (and he's Ray Liotta).
Then comes the immediate shift in tone that seems to bring the movie to a grinding halt. We've now entered a completely different film. One filled with intense violence and torture. I understand where Demme is trying to go with it. Charlie has lived his life with rose-colored glasses for far too long and now his belated coming-of-age has finally arrived. Still, the ending feels tacked on like a useless appendage.
The movie also suffers from romantic formulas that have been around since the beginning of cinema. Even though Lulu seems to have been playing Charlie all along, she still finds a completely erroneous reason to get mad at him. Her reason doesn't make a lick of sense, and we're left wondering, 'Why was that thrown in there? Is it just there to make us think that there is a chance Lulu and Charlie won't end up together?' It's the same third act fight that you see in every other rom-com out there, and here it makes even less sense.
Demme is a fantastic director, but even the good ones let their movies slip through their fingers. I understand I may be in the minority here, but I don't see anything overtly special about 'Something Wild'. It smacks of 80s tropes and never really realizes the movie what it wants to be. Apparently not all the movies Criterion picks can be five star winners.
Blu-ray Vital Statistics
'Something Wild' comes housed in the standard clear Criterion Blu-ray case with a spine number of 563. Inside is a 16 page booklet that includes information about the movie's different chapters, its cast, transfer information and crecdits. There's also an essay by David Thompson, co-editor of "Scorsese on Scorses", called "Wild Things" that's been provided.
Like many Criterion releases this new transfer was overseen by the film's director of photography, in this case Tak Fujimoto. It was also personally approved by Jonathan Demme. 'Something Wild' is presented in high definition with a 1080p picture and its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1.
For an 80s film, it looks great. Another near-perfect job from the people at Criterion. From the what now seems wacky apparel, to the overall softness of the photography, this looks and feels like an 80s film through and through. Colors are bright though. When we first meet Lulu she's decked out in all kinds of colorful jewelry that really shines in high definition. Her red lips pop off the screen while blacks are nice and inky.
Criterion has done a great job cleaning up the movie, but not making it look too DNR'd. Still, every so often visible specks pop up on screen. There's a shot near the beginning of the New York skyline that is hampered with quite a lot of noise in the light blue sky. That's the only scene with such noise. Other than those few instances, this transfer looks clean and clear. Free from any distractions that may otherwise mar the viewing experience.
'Something Wild' comes to Blu-ray with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 audio track.
There's not much to talk about here. The lossless track does its job just fine, but the confines of 2.0 really limit it. Dialogue is nice and clear, even Lulu's hushed whispers are easily intelligible. The synthesized 80s music carries some low-end frequency along with it even if the track isn't made to engage the sub. This sound design, while limiting in nature, stays true to the original film.
I didn't notice any instances where crackles, hisses, or any other audio anomalies distracted the listener.
I'm not a big fan of 'Something Wild'. It definitely has an oddness to it that some people love, but I feel the movie is far too disjointed to work. The acting, on the other hand, is superb. Everyone here does a fantastic job. Criterion has done a great job restoring both the video and original sound. The special features are quite a disappointment though, especially by Criterion standards. Two interviews and a trailer is all we get. I have to say that this one is for Criterion collectors only.