Something Wild (1986) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Sometimes you have to admit it's a pretty good flick, even if you don't like it. This odd movie is such an example for me. It's more like several movies, and it's one of those cases of an OK movie that I really don't like at all.

Jeff Daniels plays a young businessman who has virtually no life outside of work. He's the kind of guy who puts on a suit when he gets out of the shower after a ballgame, the kind of guy who irons his underwear and jammies.

Melanie Griffith plays the kind of girl who doesn't even wear underwear and jammies. 

Somehow they hook up in Act 1. Melanie can read Daniels perfectly, but he insists he's different from the man she sees. "I'm a rebel" he claims. Why does he say that? Because he went with munis when everyone else was playing the stock market. Whoo, doggies. Move aside Sonny Barger and Abbie Hoffman - here's a boy who's really willing to live life on the edge. Melanie's character really is wild, and she decides to have some fun with the pseudo-rebel.


Melanie Griffith shows her breasts in a clearly-lit sex scene with Jeff Daniels.

Daniels shows his butt in the scene.

Melanie decides to goof on him a bit. They get a room, she handcuffs him, tears up some of his Brooks Brothers clothing, screws him senseless, calls his boss and gets him on the line while Jeff is still manacled - that kind of stuff. At this point, the film is an edgy comedy. We are never sure if Melanie is cuffing him so she can take his wallet, or if she really intends to screw him for pleasure. We don't know if Melanie likes him and wants to help him loosen his tie a bit, or if she just hates his kind of smug middle-class suburban complacency and is ridiculing him. The film does a good job of manipulating our emotions, because we are just as relieved as Daniels that she turns out to be harmless and has a sincere person beneath her S&M exterior.

Then the film takes a very sweet left turn in Act 2. Jeff agrees to pretend to be Melanie's husband for a visit to her mother and her 10th year high school reunion. During this point of the movie, it is an edgeless romantic comedy, they seem to be falling in love, and the reunion itself is pure silliness - they meet one of his work colleagues, they can't keep their unrehearsed stories straight, etc. 

Then the film becomes a completely different film altogether in Act 3. Ray Liotta shows up at the 10th year reunion, making his screen debut as Melanie's real husband, a violent creep just out of the big house. Liotta provides his familiar blend of soft-spoken regular guy and violent low-rent thug, an act he had already perfected years before Goodfellas. Actually, although he almost always plays sociopaths, I think Liotta would do fine in nice guy roles, but he can't seem to escape his stereotyping. Once Liotta shows up, there is no more comedy. Liotta beats the hell out of Daniels, terrorizes Melanie, gets them involved in a c-store robbery, and the film eventually ends in grisly, bloody mayhem.

What the .... ?

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • no major features

I'm not saying that the second half of the movie isn't good, mind you. It's just that you're lulled into thinking it will be a sweet-natured little romantic comedy, a "When Harry met Sally" kind of thing, and then suddenly you're watching "Silence of the Lambs". To get the general idea, imagine if Harry and Sally had suddenly met Hannibal Lecter halfway through the film, and there were no more laughs or light moments as they had to deal with the very real possibility of their own extermination. I'm pretty sure that wasn't a miscalculation on the part of director Jonathan Demme (who actually directed Silence of the Lambs as well). I think the whole point of the tone switch was to get the audience emotionally involved, to get even more worked up against the Liotta character, because he is destroying a serenity which exists not only in the characters, but in the audience as well. "Hey. I was just getting into the love story, and the comedy .....". When Liotta shatters our mood, we get a strong reinforcement of the way he shatters the mood of the characters.

Anyway, I find the all that irritating, and have disliked the movie since it first came out, but I have to admit that the film works on its own level. It meant to manipulate my emotions, and it succeeded in producing a visceral reaction. I see that, and have to tip my cap. Unfortunately, I don't like the kind of film it became in the second half, and I wish I had used those hours to watch something else. 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: no consensus. These two guys were far apart. Ebert 3.5/4, Maltin 2/4

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 14 articles on file.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.6
  • With their dollars ...  it took in $8 million domestic on a $13 million 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. One of the most dramatic tone shifts in film history produces an unique kid of audience involvement. You won't be bored, but you might be irritated.

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