Taglines: Something different. Something daring. Something dangerous.
The uneventful life of the businessman Charles Driggs suddenly changes when he meets the wild and sexy Lulu. When he accepts her offer to drive him back to his office, she instead takes him out of town and on a trip, leaving behind his old life.
Posing as a married couple, Charles and “Audrey” (which turns out to be Lulu’s real name) visit her mother and her high school reunion. At this reunion they meet Audrey’s violent ex-husband Ray, who has just released from prison. When Ray makes it clear that he wants Audrey back, that is when the real trouble begins.
Something Wild is a 1986 American action comedy film directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Melanie Griffith, Jeff Daniels and Ray Liotta. It was screened out of competition at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. This film has some elements of a road movie, and it has acquired a certain cult status.
Film Review for Something Wild
ONE radiantly beautiful, late spring day in lower Manhattan, Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels), a proper young tax consultant, walks out of a lunchroom without paying his check. It’s just a whim – a vestige of the rebel that exists within Charlie. The act goes unnoticed by the cashier, but not by another patron (Melanie Griffith), an eccentrically dressed young woman who wears a Louise Brooks wig of bobbed black hair and initially calls herself Lulu.
The young woman (who’s actually a blonde named Audrey) confronts Charlie on the sidewalk. She threatens to call the police and then, instead, offers to drive him to his office. Charlie, both unsettled and intrigued, agrees. Within two hours, Audrey has Charlie somewhere in New Jersey, in a sleazy motel room, handcuffed to the bedpost, sighing with delight as she rips off his clothes and makes love to him.
This is the unlikely but hugely promising beginning of Jonathan Demme’s new “Something Wild,” which starts off as a comedy, slips into melodrama and winds up as something of a romantic dream. In spite of all its manic shifting of gears, though, “Something Wild” never achieves the momentum required to make the transitions from one mood to the next with any ease. One movie ends as an entirely different one begins.
“Something Wild,” which opens today at the Baronet and other theaters, is often “Something Wrong.” Audrey, it turns out, has identified Charlie as a kindred spirit and has kidnapped him to take him home to Virginia, to introduce him (as her husband) to her mother and to be her escort at her high school reunion. All goes well until Audrey’s real husband, Ray (Ray Liotta), a psychotic, small-town hood, turns up at the same reunion. What happens subsequently is a sort of provincial version of Griffin Dunne’s nightmare in “After Hours.”
As he demonstrated in “Handle With Care” and “Melvin and Howard,” Mr. Demme has a singular gift for offbeat comedy. When “Something Wild” is dealing with the burgeoning relationship between the once-uptight Charlie and the sweetly desperate, near-alcoholic Audrey, the film has the manner of a screwball comedy designed for the 1980’s. It’s full of quirky lines and characters, including Audrey’s old-shoe, resolutely unshockable mother (Dana Preu), called Peaches.
It’s also full of dead ends and red herrings. As written, Audrey would seem to be a most unlikely fan of Louise Brooks, and I can only believe that when, late in the film, we see her reading a book about Winnie Mandela, it’s supposed to be a sight-gag.
The performances are, without exception, good. Mr. Daniels, best remembered for his role as the disconnected actor in Woody Allen’s “Purple Rose of Cairo,” and Miss Griffith, who sometimes sounds eerily like Judy Holliday, play – when allowed – with the sort of earnest intensity that is the basis of comedy at its best. Mr. Liotta, a newcomer, nearly walks off with his sections of the film, while Miss Preu, who was so fine in Victor Nunez’s “Gal Young Un,” actually does.
Almost as good are the other members of the supporting cast, including Jack Gilpin, Charles Napier and Mr. Demme’s fellow directors, John Sayles and John Waters, who do cameos.
The film’s principal difficulty is E. Max Frye’s original screenplay, which is better thought out in terms of its narrative than of the characters who, in one way and another, are supposed to make it all happen. Missing is the impulse for what we are led to believe is the liberating behavior of Audrey and Charlie. They are so dimly written that they must be characterized entirely in terms of the actors’ performances, the clothes they wear and the soundtrack music.
Something Wild (1986)
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Melanie Griffith, George ‘Red’ Schwartz, Leib Lensky, Tracey Walter, Maggie T., Patricia Falkenhain, Sandy McLeod, Adelle Lutz
Screenplay by: E. Max Frye
Production Design by: Norma Moriceau
Cinematography by: Tak Fujimoto
Film Editing by: Craig McKay
Costume Design by: Norma Moriceau
Set Decoration by: William F. Reynolds
Art Direction by: Stephen J. Lineweaver
Music by: Laurie Anderson, John Cale
Distributed by: Orion Pictures
Release Date: November 7, 1986