Wild at Heart (1990) from Tuna

Wild at Heart (1990) is a strange film even by Director David Lynch's standards, and that is saying something. Like Blue Velvet, which I admit is strange, but did like, many people praise this film, and it is rated 7.0 at IMDb. Roger Ebert was not a fan of either film, but awarded 3 stars anyway. Let me give you the basic idea and a few particulars, and you can make your own decision.

Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern are lovers. After he is released from prison for manslaughter (killing a man Dern's mother had paid to whack Cage), the two set off on a road trip, violating his parole. Her mother, who burned her husband to death and thinks Cage witnessed it, sends her current lowlife man to kill Cage, then asks an even lower lowlife to whack the first guy and Cage. Dern and Cage stop off in New Orleans, but leave before the killers catch up with them. They then land in Big Tuna, Texas. Dern discovers she is pregnant, and Cage agrees to rob a feed store with Willem Dafoe, who plays a very creepy role. As it turns out, Dafoe is the hit man, but things go badly, and he ends up dead. Cage ends up back in jail for armed robbery.

Dern waits for him.

Ok, fairly straightforward plot, but a Lynch film could never be that simple. Consider the following, just o few of the eccentric bits incorporated into this film:

  • Cage is sort of an Elvis impersonator, and even sings two Elvis songs himself.

  • There are dozens of references to Wizard of Oz, including an appearance from the good witch, Glenda.

  • Dern's mother, played by Diane Ladd, is way over the top.

On the plus side, Dern and Cage have real chemistry, and it is, in the final analysis, a love story.


Several women show breasts, including Laura Dern in several scenes

Also: Charlie Spradling, Lisa Ann Cabasa, Leigh Valli, Mia M. Ruiz, and three women of ample charms who were uncredited.

DVD info from Amazon

  • New transfer supervised by David Lynch, with upgraded picture and sound

  • Dell's Lunch Counter: all-new extended interviews with Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, David Lynch, Willem Dafoe, Diane Ladd, and Sheryl Lee

  • "Love, Death, Elvis & Oz: The Making of Wild at Heart": new 30-minute documentary

  • "Specific Spontaneity: Focus on David Lynch": cast and crew comment on working with Lynch

  • "David Lynch on the DVD Process"

  • Original making-of featurette

  • Sailor & Lula image gallery: 65 behind-the-scenes photos, animated with music

  • Original theatrical trailer, TV spots

The big question is how to score this one. Assuming that Lynch is sort of a genre all to himself, let's look at the IMDb scores for his films:

1980 The Elephant Man 8.1
1999 The Straight Story 8.1
2001 Mulholland Dr. 7.9 
1986 Blue Velvet 7.7
1997 Lost Highway 7.2
1977 Eraserhead 7.0 
1990 Wild at Heart 7.0 
1992 Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me  6.5
1984 Dune 6.3 
2002 Rabbits 6.2

That puts Wild at Heart in about the middle of his popularity, making this a C. Lynch fans should enjoy it.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert 3/4.

The People Vote ...

  • Budget: $10 million. Gross $14 million.
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. Middle of the road for the "Lynch genre".

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