Untamed Heart (1993) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Untamed heart is an offbeat fairy tale of a love story aimed for the female tween and young teen market. It isn't a cool movie. If you are only into hip neo-violence, you will find that this film is about as far as possible from Pulp Fiction and Leon: the Professional and The Boondock Saints.

It is a quiet, sad, reflective story about two unlucky working class stiffs in Minneapolis. She works as a waitress in a diner. He is the dishwasher/busboy. She is not interested in him at first because she's a regular good ol' gal, and he seems kind of creepy. Nobody seems to think he can speak. Everyone generally assumes he is "slow," or perhaps that he is missing a few face cards from his mental deck. To everyone in the crew, he's just a fixture, part of the diner's furniture.

The story begins by focusing on her. She's the kind of good-hearted Midwestern gal who is looking for love in all the wrong places, giving her heart to a steady succession of guys who don't appreciate her, and end up dumping her. It's not that she's a loser. She's generous, and attractive, but she's looking for true love, and doesn't know a worthwhile prospect when she sees one, so she dates the wrong guys until they move on.

Our two heroes don't have much contact until one day when she is attacked by two rapists while walking home, and the busboy comes to the rescue and carries her home, as if he were a medieval knight and she a damsel in distress. She is ambivalent about the rescue, grateful to have been saved, but filled with questions. How the hell did her knight happen to be there, far from their diner, and how did he know where she lived to carry her home? Had he been following her constantly? Was he somehow in league with the rapists?

Suffice it to say that she answers all the questions to her own satisfaction, and finds out that he is not creepy at all, and in fact can speak very well. There is nothing slow about him. In fact, his apartment is filled with books. He is, however, every bit as strange, and asocial, and naive as everyone thought. Moreover, he is walking around with a time bomb of a diseased heart. She ignores all the negatives. She even finds his negatives to be charming and gallant and refreshingly innocent. They fall in love ...

To say more would be spoiling.

This film an odd one. On the surface, it could not be more mundane, filled with everyday life in Minneapolis. The denizens of the diner have long discussions about the cigarette machine and fishing lures and the weather, always the weather. Indeed, the weather plays a significant role in the film, casting a dreary pall on many scenes which take place on old urban neighborhoods covered with patches of ice and snow, sometimes in snowstorms, and sometimes in bitterly cold rains on days when people gasp for breath

The kind of conditions that native Minnesotans like to call "July."

Kidding. It's Christmas time.

Beneath the everyday exterior, the film is not realistic at all. At heart it is a fantasy because the busboy is not a real person like the others. He is not a normal person who ruminates about his ice fishing techniques. He is an angel sent to teach us a lesson, or perhaps he is a fierce warrior with the heart of a baboon as he says, and as he really seems to believe. The existence of this frog-turned-prince of a character lets the waitress escape from her humdrum world into his extraordinary life. At least for a while.

I think that's pretty much the essence of what a "young chick flick" is supposed to do, and this film does it quite well, moving slowly, tantalizing, pulling back, circling, scoring, then letting everything play out the way it really would have if a mortal woman loved an angel with a diseased baboon heart.

Some trivia from IMDb:

A hot property before it went into production, stars like Geena Davis, Demi Moore and Brad Pitt were all vying for roles. Madonna had been particularly interested in the film, lobbying hard for Jason Patric to land the male lead. However, she finally quit trying when the studio decided to go with William Baldwin instead, although ironically Christian Slater has the part in the finished film.

It's not a cool film, but is a very sweet one, basically a variation on Beauty and the Beast. Marisa Tomei and Christian Slater play the working class lovers very competently. Slater understates the role appropriately, acting from the heart and using none of the ultrahip faux-Nicholson mannerisms that would later box his career into a limited variety of roles. Tomei does a complete job with her character, including quite a convincing Upper Midwest accent. (Slater and Rosie Perez don't even try the accent, not that it matters. People living in Minneapolis could be from anywhere.) Granted, this film is not for dad or junior, but its values are pure, and the women in your family might find that it hits the spot if they are into tragic, sweet, and odd love stories requiring a full box of Kleenex.



  • No features except the original theatrical trailer.
  • the transfer is anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 sets.



None, but Maria Tomei runs around in her underwear and nightie throughout the film.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: no consensus, but a deep divide. James Berardinelli 1.5/4, Roger Ebert 3/4. Their split was a microcosm of the critical universe, which featured everything from the rhapsodic to the contemptuous.

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed $19 million in the USA.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even 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. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). 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. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. It's a romanticized, multi-hankie weepfest of a Beauty and the Beast update, but very competently written and performed.

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