Wild at Heart | Chicago Reader

Wild at Heart

Rated R 124 minutes 1990

Barry Gifford's beautifully written picaresque novel about southern lovers on the run, though essentially literary, could have worked as a movie had David Lynch shown some fidelity to the realistic context. Despite several over-the-top interpolations—mainly references to Elvis and The Wizard of Oz and a nutty mobster straight out of Twin Peaks—Lynch manages to shoehorn in a surprising amount of Gifford's material, but uses most of it like sofa stuffing. Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern give their all to the lead parts, but they're handicapped by Lynch's indifference to characters (as opposed to figures), and the other actors are used so narrowly that they're mere icons. Willem Dafoe is outfitted with stumpy teeth and a pencil mustache a la John Waters, leading one to the grim hypothesis that the most aesthetically nuanced of the former midnight moviemakers is taking his cues from the least. At least Waters cares about most of his freaks; for Lynch they're mainly exploitation fodder that seems to come straight out of junior high.

Film Credits

Director: David Lynch

Producer: Michael Kuhn, Monty Montgomery and Sigurjon Sighvatsson

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, Willem Dafoe, Isabella Rossellini, Harry Stanton, Crispin Glover, Grace Zabriskie, J.E. Freeman and W. Morgan Shepard

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