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Something Wild

"You're a closet rebel," says Lulu to Charlie when they first meet outside a New York diner in Something Wild (1986). Lulu (Melanie Griffith) is looking for a good time and spots a kindred spirit in the seemingly straight-laced Charlie (Jeff Daniels) after he sneaks out of the diner without paying. Convincing Charlie to trade in a trip back to the office for a ride around town isn't hard for the sexy Lulu. She leads him into some petty crime, some wild cheap-motel sex (complete with handcuffs), and a few other relatively innocent pranks. Lulu knows just how far she can get Charlie to go — challenging his traditional values and scaring him without scaring him off. Charlie is willing to visit Lulu's mother Peaches while pretending to be Lulu's new husband, and he continues the charade when they attend Lulu's high school reunion. Charlie even manages to keep his cool when he runs into someone from his office at the reunion. But with the arrival of Lulu's convict husband Ray (Ray Liotta) — newly released from prison — events begin to take a dangerous turn and Charlie realizes he's in for more than just a wild ride. Lulu's penchant for small-time thrills brings excitement without too much risk, but Ray falls into a different and far more menacing category of thrill-seekers. Something Wild could have been a far more conventional movie, but director Jonathan Demme infuses the film with wit and sexiness, and with enough quirkiness to give it a wonderful sense of originality. Although not quite as daring now as it seemed when it was released, the film is still great fun. Daniels as the leading man — rather than the sensible sidekick role he so often plays — makes Charlie a believable character with whom we can identify and sympathize, and Griffith plays Lulu perfectly as a jumble of attitudes that make her both edgy and endearing. Liotta tears up the screen as Ray, becoming the focal point of every scene he is in — everyone on screen and off is afraid to take their eyes off him. Cameos by John Waters and John Sayles add to the fun, and Demme adds lots of idiosyncratic characters and offbeat elements within scenes to give the film his singular directorial perspective. MGM's DVD release of Something Wild offers a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in Dolby 2.0 Surround. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.
—Kerry Fall



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