Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wild at Heart: Elvis and Lula on the Yellow Brick Road

by Pa Rock
Film Fan

Somehow over the years I had gotten it into my old gray head that I had seen David Lynch's great film, Wild at Heart.   I have certainly seen some of the iconic scenes from the 1990 cult film on multiple occasions, but I didn't realize until last night, when I happened to flip on the Sundance Channel just as the movie was beginning, that I had never watched the complete movie before.  Last night I corrected that cinematic omission - and was it ever a treat!

Brief summary:  Sailor, a small-time hood, is in love with Lula, a hot twenty-year-old blond.  But there is a problem.  Lula's mom, herself a hot blond who wouldn't mind being ravaged by Sailor, is homicidally committed to keeping Sailor away from Lula.   Mom sends one flunky after Sailor just as the movie gets started and that guy winds up getting "man-slaughtered" by the tough street hood.  Sailor serves two years in prison, and when he gets out Lula is there to meet him.  Sailor breaks his parole by hitting the road with Lula as the two speed off through a dystopian American south in hopes of reaching California.  Lula's mom, not to be left in the dust, sends not one, but two men to intercept them and kill Sailor.  From there on the movie is a road trip through weirdness and dangerous circumstances.

Wild at Heart is so loaded down with symbolism that it would take a notebook or two just to record the references that I managed to catch.  Two themes run heavily through the movie:   Nicolas Cage doing his "Elvis" thing as Sailor, and Lula's mom, Diane Ladd, filling in the gaps as the "Wicked Witch of the West" from The Wizard of Oz.  Oz references abound throughout the movie, and Cage sounds almost as good as Elvis when he sings "Treat Me Like a Fool," a number in which he has the girls screaming and swooning.   Nick Cage's impression of Elvis is so good that one must assume he had more than a passing interest in the singer - a fact that might even explain why Cage was briefly married to the King's daughter, Lisa Marie.

Diane Ladd's "Wicked Witch" (Marietta Fortune - Lula's mother) is wonderful.  She is a chain-smoking, gin-swilling hag with a deadly focus on destroying Sailor and saving her daughter.  Ms. Ladd received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for the role in this movie.

Laura Dern (Diane Ladd's daughter in real life) is equally wonderful as Lula.  Her passion for Sailor never dims, and she heats up the action to a point where it is miraculous that the film didn't burst into flames.

Willem Dafoe also turns in a remarkable performance as Bobby Peru, a small town Texas hustler, who tries to insert himself between Sailor and Lula.  Dafoe's scene where he appears to be trying to seduce Lula is worth the price of renting this movie.

Also worth the price of the rental is Nick Cage singing "Love Me Tender" to Laura Dern as the credits roll at the end of the film.  He is channeling Elvis to heart-wrenching perfection!

Overall, Wild at Heart was an evening very well spent!  It is pure David Lynch - and what could be better than that?

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