83) Wild at Heart (1990) Dir: David Lynch Date Released: August 1990 Date Seen: March 26th, 2009 Rating: 1.5/5
Because we're talking about a David Lynch film, saying that Wild at Heart (1990) is totally perplexing might sound like an endorsement. It's not. The content of the film is bizarre enough but the film’s real noodle-scratchers come from watching a luminary's monumnetally horrible creative decisions executed with the help of a very big budget. Ten bucks to the guy that can tell me what manner of illicit substance Mr. Eraserhead was on when he came up with this load of horse puckey.
Like Lynch’s other films, Wild at Heart does not need to be particularly coherent to be effective. What’s most unsettling about Lost Highway (1997) is not that it doesn’t make sense but rather there’s enough arcane and indecipherable hints that it seems like it could in some parallel universe. In that sense, the disconnect between the understandable, narratively grounded world of Wild at Heart, the one ruled by pulpy melodrama and the one that’s peppered with bizarre references to The Wizard of Oz and Elvis Presley, is more jarring than the idea that at some point the two overlap.
This mismatch is a product of Lynch’s need to deny his viewer any sense of satisfaction they might glean from a single sustained and/or cogent mood. Wild at Heart is an exercise in self-denial, namely the denial of the viewer’s pleasure. Seeing Willem Dafoe go after Nic Cage with a shotgun is freakishly pleasurable, as much of the film’s over-the-top violence, so what better way to dispel that pleasure than by having Dafoe’s head pop off or overlaying a brutal beating Nic Cage delivers to a hitman with an absurdly heavy-handed electric guitar riff? These decisions are undoubtedly made because of a cruel sense of humor that dictates sarcasm and disdain for generic cliches is a valid form of artistic criticism. Lynch should know better, especially considering how wrenching Cage, Defoe and Laura Dern’s performances are.
Note: What was the deal with the serious badonkadonk fetish this film had going? I mean, don’t get me wrong, Laura Dern has a great rear and there are countless other fetihistic preoccupations in this film to balk about but when lil Simon gets confused, I get really confused.