This film was not always easy to find. It did get issued on DVD in the early days of the medium, but that disk went out of print. Thankfully, Criterion recently bought the rights to the film and released it on both DVD and Blu-ray. They also added a bunch of new content. Even though I own the original DVD, it doesn’t have those extras on it so I have thought about getting the Criterion edition.
The film opens with Charles Driggs (Daniels) having a Friday lunch in a restaurant in
. He is dressed well and appears to be an executive of some sort. He gets the bill, but puts it in his pocket and leaves without paying. A woman in the restaurant ( New York City ) notices this and follows him out. She confronts him and he gets scared. He’s just been promoted to Vice-President and if there’s any hint of him breaking the law he’s toast. It turns out this woman, who introduces herself as Lulu, doesn’t work there and she’s just messing with him. She then says she’ll make it up to him by giving him a ride back to the office. He accepts. Bad move. Griffith
Charles soon finds himself in a car going through the Holland Tunnel into
. Lulu tells him to stop being so uptight; he can take a Friday afternoon off. She tells him she knows what kind of guy he is. He’s a “closet rebel”. She bets he takes a candy bar now and then, or steals a paper from a news stand. He gets a little grin and confesses. He calls it “rebelling within the system.” He’s about a get a lesson in real rebellion. New Jersey
Lulu stops to pick up some more liquor (she finished off the bottle she had with her while she was driving.) Charles doesn’t run off now that the car is stopped, though. He just calls the office from a payphone to check in. Lulu comes back out, having taken the money in the cash register when the clerk was distracted, and she and Charles head back on the highway. They end up crashing into a road sign and walk to a motel nearby. She continues to mess with him by pulling out a set of handcuffs and showing them to him. He’s a little scared, but he’s also a little excited. He lets her handcuff him to the bed and she proceeds to have her way with him. Just as she’s gotten him wound up, she stops and reaches for the phone. Using his business card she calls his office and asks for his boss. She sets the receiver near Charles’ head and proceeds to see if she can distract him by doing something to him just out of camera range. Charles does some fast adlibbing with his boss. When he gets done she looks at him impressed. “You can lie really well when you need to, can’t you Charlie?” Remember this.
In the morning they discover a cop impounding their car from the accident (cameo by director John Sayles). They leave it and Lulu buys a used car from a salesman she bribes (cameo by director John Waters.) Charles is wondering where she got the money, and for that matter where she got the previous car. She reassures him.
She then explains that she’s going to
this weekend for her ten year high school reunion. She picked Charles because he looks like the kind of man her mother would like to see her with. She asks him to pretend to be her husband for the weekend in front of her mother and then they can return to Pennsylvania . He agrees. He’s a big hit with Mom, and the two decide to continue the charade at the reunion. New York
So far this might sound like a pretty standard romantic comedy, right? You may be wondering why Criterion would release it. Well, about 50 minutes into this film it takes a turn for the deadly serious.
At the reunion Lulu (now going by her real name of Audrey) runs into Ray Sinclair (Liotta) and his date Irene (Margaret Colin – Independence Day). Audrey and Ray were an item back in high school. Audrey immediately wants to leave. She’s hiding something pretty serious from Charles – Ray was a criminal who went to prison for years. He’s just out on parole and is very possessive of her. Charles, being her husband as far as Ray knows, has something of his – Audrey. We get slowly building menace from Ray as we wait for him to explode. When he does things get bad for Charles. He ends up with a broken nose and Audrey ends up in a car with Ray. Both are lucky they didn’t end up dead. Does Charles cut his losses and head home? Does he try to go after Ray and rescue Audrey? Does Audrey want or need to be “rescued”? (It turns out it’s not just her who’s been lying to Charles; he’s got a pretty big secret of his own that he’s been lying about.) If he does succeed, what will Ray do to him?
Something Wild is a different kind of movie in that it changes genres halfway through. It goes from being a romantic comedy to being a thriller. It’s an early effort from Jonathan Demme, who would go on to do The Silence of the Lambs. It’s got three early performances from Jeff Daniels, Melanie Griffith, and Ray Liotta. And it’s got a fantastic soundtrack. If any of these things sound interesting then I recommend you give this film a try.
Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars