jack’s review published on Letterboxd:
In the illustrious, horrifying, and downright surreal filmography of David Lynch, an occurring motif of warped dreams, demented nightmares, and mental instability lays the footing that each of his films has; everything else, from the themes of parenthood his first feature film Eraserhead, his scientific glorious disaster Dune, and his horrifying and saddening masterwork Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me manages to express Lynch at his most disturbing, yet unique and creative. Ironically, his 5th feature film, Wild at Heart, establishes Lynch at arguably his most insane, melodramatic, and also his most humoring and energetic.
It's not only David Lynch's pitch perfect direction that guides Wild at Heart down the "Yellow Brick Road" of destruction, but the two leading performances and the supporting characters that establish Wild at Heart's insanity, not to mention some of the weirdest uses of The Wizard of Oz in any film. Before directing Wild at Heart, Lynch tackled the televised masterpiece, Twin Peaks, and his iconic Blue Velvet. In that span of Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart's release, Lynch's direction seems to reach a change in pace; in Blue Velvet, everything was intimate, enclosed by the shadows of the underbelly gangster world Jeffery tumbles down, masked by the picture perfect gardens and white picket fences and cheeful smiles. In Wild at Heart, Lynch begins to cut lose, capturing the pure pits of Hell, surrounded by the flames of passion, love, intimacy, and destruction that engulfs practically everything on screen; everything is impalpable, as everything Lynch throws at us maintains a burning reminder of his power as a filmmaker. Wild at Heart's lack of control makes Lynch's loose and sporadic direction seem more contained then it is and all the more perfect.
At the core of the film resides the characters. Supporting characters --from Lula's mentally unstable cousin "Jingle" Dell smashing sandwiches together and screaming at a black glove, Lula's bullying and demeaning mother (played by Diane Ladd) who attempts to kill Sailor, and the incomparable creep and grotesque pervert Bobby Peru (played with the perfect concoction of vomit and shit-stained grin by Willem Dafoe)-- are unlike any other. Even characters that have minimum amount of screen time manage to make an impact. But none as much as Sailor and Lula (Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern), who give two of the best performances in a Lynch film. Cage's insanity, shaken with a beautifully executed Elvis impersonation, mixes together and Cage becomes unstoppable, burning up the screen and providing the humor at its finest. Laura Dern's subtlety and simple performance of a naive and tortured soul is the crown jewel of this madness. Out of a film that has the most balls-to-the-wall characters, Lula manages to provide a sign of humanity; a girl who longs to be loved for who she is, flaws and all. Sailor doesn't bat an eye at her. They are each other's spark.
In a filmography of the most sinister outcomes, Wild at Heart is arguably Lynch's adaption of a pure dream; everything wraps up beautifully with no sign of emotional distress or loss. This is love at it's most palpable and fiesty, not to mention sexy and destructive, a romantic comedy done in the demented style of Lynch's vision. Not an achivement, technical wise, but an achivement for how emotionally invested it manages to trap its audience. Wild at Heart is the literal drive to hell; buckle up, it's a firey ride.