My favourite Demme film - a funny, crazy, whirlwind of an adventure, which constantly teases you with inevitability but then suddenly it pulls the rug from under your feet. It's also a deceptively deep film about identity, love and middle-class America. Criterion have done a great job at restoring it...the primary colours are vibrant and really pop out at you + the depth of field is less muddy than previous editions. Special features are limited but interesting. There's an interview with Demme about his use of the subjective camera that he subsequently used more in 'Silence of the Lambs' - so it's enlightening if you like that kind of thing.
Something Wild sees the tight-assed Charles Driggs (the reliable Jeff Daniels) being bewitched, bothered and bewildered (though not necessarily in that order) by the bohemian Lulu (played by a surprisingly good Melanie Griffith). Much adventure ensues for the pair, some of which is comic in nature and some of which is of a much darker hue, especially when Lulu’s former partner Ray enters the picture (a mesmeric Ray Liotta in his first major role).
As one would expect from this plot synopsis, the tone of Something Wild is somewhat inconsistent – it’s part screwball comedy, part psycho thriller, part road movie, with some other genres thrown into the mix along the way. This could be seen as a fault in many movies (and indeed some criticised it for this at the time) but here it actually seems to help move the story along and prevent it from sagging at any point. It works, in other words, and one can’t help but root for the two protagonists throughout.
This movie made me sit up and take notice of Jonathan Demme as a director of some note at the time of its original release and I instantly became a fan. The next few films he made directly after Something Wild (which included Swimming To Cambodia, Married To The Mob, Philadelphia and Silence Of The Lambs) confirmed my initial instinct. Sadly though, nothing he made after this golden period matched the quality of these movies and by the 2000s his star had fallen somewhat.
Watching Something Wild back now, it’s clear that Martin Scorsese must have seen it before casting Ray Liotta in Goodfellas – Liotta’s performance as the charming but dangerous Ray is virtually an audition for the part of Henry Hill in the gangster classic. Also, as you’d expect from someone who directed Stop Making Sense, the use of music throughout the movie is a constant joy. Yes, it’s a tad 80s in flavour as one would expect but when that flavour includes songs by New Order, The Go-Betweens and Big Audio Dynamite then how can one resist?
As usual, the Criterion Collection Blu-ray version of the film is exemplary, with some great extras and an eye-poppingly good picture throughout. This is a film that deserves to be more well-known and so will hopefully gain a better reputation through time.