Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Something Wild

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, August 8, 2009

“Yeah, I’m writing this down.”

Special features

Trailer5

Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith were at their best in this lost movie from the eighties, and I can’t watch Ray Liotta in anything now without a shiver. I knew someone just like him in high school. No idea what he’s doing now, but it probably resembles Liotta in this movie.

RecommendationRent Soon!
DirectorJonathan Demme
WriterE. Max Frye
Movie Rating8
Transfer Quality7
Overall Rating6
Formats
  • Enhanced Widescreen
Something Wild Christmas Club

“Are telling me that we’re not gonna get a room because you’re saving money for Christmas presents? In the middle of June?”

What statement better defines the eighties than that saving money in June for Christmas presents in December is a symptom of not living your life to the fullest? Saving for the future is so silly its embarrassing as soon as it’s pointed out to Charlie Driggs.

Something Wild embodies the dreams of the high school graduates of the mid-seventies who are now working in the mid-eighties. The male pornographic fantasy dreams, to quote Dazed and Confused, but dreams nonetheless. The high school graduates of 1976 are six years out of college in 1986. Life is not the sixties renaissance they grew up expecting. It’s all about the future: sacrificing now for December, investing in long-term municipal bonds in 1981 for 15% annual return to impress the chicks.

Life is not walking down the street and meeting a beautiful woman in beads and bangles while upbeat music plays in the background, and driving away in her re-upholstered green convertible for an afternoon of scotch and sex.

Something Wild starts with a beautiful montage of New York City, coming in from the river, with David Byrne singing in the foreground. The music in this movie is, in general, quite good. It is also all “real” as far as I can tell: it is provided by characters in the movie, either through radios and cassette players, or by walk-on characters actually singing it, such as hitchhiking musicians.

Something Wild Writing Down

“Yeah, I’m writing this down!”

Most of the “live” music is provided by people who have nothing to do with the film itself. Oddly enough it works. The point appears to be that life has a soundtrack if you but listen for it.

And speaking of strange musical choices, I love the harpsichord. Audrey’s mother plays it, and it has such an archaically beautiful sound. I seem to recall more harpsichords in the eighties. Some things are worth bringing back: we need more harpsichord today.

For all that it’s an eighties relic, this is one hell of a smart movie. Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels are both at their best here. According to Wikipedia, this was Griffith’s first starring role. If so, she started her career with a bang. Her portrayal of Lulu was vivacious and natural. Daniels had already done a great job in Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo and is even better here.

Something Wild starts out as a romantic comedy, and it’s funny, poignant, and well written. Then almost exactly at the half-way mark, Ray Liotta steps in and it becomes a thriller. Liotta’s performance is chilling, and frightening in its believability. He takes a stock villain and imbues him with amazing character.

Something Wild Harpsichord

More harpsichord.

There are a couple of pleasantly surprising cameos. Director Jonathan Demme brought in two other Johns for throw-away scenes. Directors John Waters and John Sayles both show up for a few seconds.

While the movie’s great, the DVD lacks features and quality. The only extra feature is the trailer, and it’s a wild thing, too. It makes the movie look like a strange porn film. This might be why the first time I saw Something Wild was on Cinesex.

The DVD menu looks like it was slapped together. The photo of Melanie Griffith under the DVD menu is frightening. It’s like a Scooby Doo painting where the eyes keep jerking back and forth when you’re not looking. They don’t actually move, they just look like it out of the corner of my eyes.

I’m recommending rental rather than purchase, but it was a toss-up. This is a fine movie, and well worth owning. It is beautifully written, acted, and filmed, and it improves with multiple viewings. The only complaint I have is that it deserves a better DVD than this. Watch it, and relive those thrilling days of yesteryear when life was for the drinking, cars were for ditching, money was for taking, and everything was sex.

Recommendation: Rent Soon!

DirectorJonathan Demme
WriterE. Max Frye
ActorsJeff Daniels, Melanie Griffith, Ray Liotta
Length1 hour, 54 minutes
Spoken languagesEnglish, French
SubtitlesFrench, Spanish
Special FeatureTrailer
More links

If you enjoyed Something Wild…

If you enjoy Jeff Daniels, you might also be interested in Pleasantville.