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Something Wild Is Just That, But In A Good Way
Never trust a chick who follows you when you don’t pay for a meal.
The boring life of businessman Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels) suddenly changes when free-spirited Audrey (Melanie Griffith) “kidnaps” him for a weekend trip. They pose as a married couple, attend Audrey’s high school reunion, and visit her mother. But when Audrey’s ex-husband Ray (Ray Liotta) shows up, freshly out of jail, this film takes a turn into dark territory.
This film doesn’t waste any time in getting started, and when it gets going, I mean, it doesn’t stop. What I liked most about this film was how writer E. Max Frye shifts the tone with his script from starting out as dark comedy, then going to a bit of a romantic comedy, then turning dark again and probing psychological thriller territory.
Many films that do this sudden change of tone fail, but Something Wild makes this transition effortlessly, mainly because of the direction from Jonathan Demme, who does a great job here of knowing just the right timing and mood to make this material work. I found myself enjoying what was going on, and I actually became involved with these characters; without giving any spoilers away, I will add that you can’t help but still root for these characters even as tense as things get during the last act.
There’s also a lot here to think about. The film is about how we should all take risks every once and a while in order to realize just how wild and crazy we can be deep down inside. I thought that this theme worked well up until the last act, where it started to border on the lines of love. The problem at the end with this film is that the theme only works for about the first 50 minutes, until the idea starts to get lost in the tense and almost suspenseful moments.
Another problem with this film is that it ends in a predictable and cliched way, which was a real bummer, considering I was really into this film for a long long time–until the last 30 minutes, when I realized just where this film was actually going. The film certainly is not dated that much, and the soundtrack is pretty awesome, but the ending itself…ehh, seen it before.
The cast is what really makes this film click and get even more wild. Melanie Griffith plays sexy, black haired Audrey and is wild and insane at first, but then you start to see the real her. The characters works really well because Griffith has been playing this same exact character for years, and she makes it work every time. Jeff Daniels plays up-tight, yuppie Charlie Driggs and is absolutely fascinating to watch on screen because he is so nerdy that when things for him start to change, he just lets loose in a way that’s actually pretty believable and insanely funny, because, once again, it’s Jeff Daniels we’re talking about here, and this guy is always such a clown.
The real treat out of the whole cast is Ray Liotta as Ray Sinclair, Audrey’s ex/present husband who shows up and shakes the whole film up. Liotta (in his first big role) is very good at playing this sinister and dark character. You never know what he’s going to do next, and no matter what he does do, you know it’s something bad and you’re going to hate him. You get the infamous “Liotta cackles” here and there, but how he handles this character and makes him seem like a true villain is what really makes the rest of this film work.
Consensus: The tone shifts rapidly throughout the film and the central message is a bit lost, but Something Wild benefits from a fun story that is expertly directed by Jonathan Demme, and acted incredibly well from Griffith, Daniels, and Liotta.