Killers and conflict are at the core of Wild at Heart, the David Lynch piece that dragged his craft kicking and screaming into the colourful contours of the 1990s. What better way to make your mark on the landscape of cinema than with Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage riding around in a Chevrolet, fending off assassins and hitmen hired by relatives of Lula (Dern). It is the escapism of running away, capitulated by those not bold enough to take the plunge, dive into the front seat of a beat-up roadster and fly away down the highway, hopefully never to be seen again. I’d do it if I’d passed my driving test, but points are added when you clip a wing mirror, run a red light and flatten a pigeon.
Bird death aside, Wild at Heart offers two (somewhat) youngsters riding the waves of freedom. Dern and Cage have great chemistry with one another, often pontificating or lashing out at those around them. It is a nice mix, and it is interesting to see where Lynch wishes to take the characters. That much is in abundance, but variety and destination are limited. We cut back and forth, chopping through the lives of two outlaws as they avoid danger, create it, and accept it as part of their new life together. This way of life can only lead to one outcome. An aplomb mindset, philosophical musings that peter out and never quite make sense, and that is what Lynch is best at.
Does Wild at Heart have meaning to it? No, not really. It never goes anywhere. These characters’ lives are set in motion by events that are far beyond their control. It is the elicited fears a lack of control brings to Lula and Sailor Ripley (Cage) that make them so aplomb. Both strong performers at the best of times, their work here does not leave anything to be desired, nor is it a rumination of creativity or vast importance. Working with Lynch certainly has its merits, but neither presents themselves as intricate or all that likeable. It is nice to see them dance and drive the nights away, but that style Lynch presents is, at times, a tad offputting.
I am always cautious when entering the mind of Mulholland Drive’s creator. The likelihood of liking a Lynch feature for me is slim. I appreciate his style; I simply do not like it. Do your thing, I’ll clap without looking. He is the man screaming down the microphone at the acoustic-only section. A frenzied creature, who, when prodded, can conjure fascinating, twisted depictions of insanity with no meaning behind it. That is the love people have for him, and Wild at Heart doesn’t have much of that. It just has a jittery feel to it, as if that Lynchian love of coffee has allowed him to teeter over into the insanity he wishes to project on his work in Eraserhead and that one episode of Twin Peaks: The Return. Perhaps it is why I enjoyed Wild at Heart.