David Lynch is one of my favourite filmmakers, so I thought Wild at Heart, which left me cold on first viewing, warranted a second chance. I’ve heard many others unimpressed by Lynch’s work, even masterpieces like Mulholland Drive, describing them as simply random events strung together. Sadly, Wild at Heart puts me in their shoes.
The film opens with an excellent scene, bold and excessive, a violent act painted in garish technicolour and accompanied by roaring hair metal guitars. It’s a disorienting open to the film, suggesting that the film is more interested in being shocking and outrageous than explaining what’s going on. The film has its share of outrageous moments, but there’s too much emphasis on the “wild” and too little “heart,” with Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage’s love story falling flat despite some appropriately oversized acting.
I don’t need a coherent plot from a Lynch film. I do need the film to cohere to something, to have an emotional resonance, and Wild at Heart doesn’t do that. The fairly conventional road trip narrative is spotted with allusions to Elvis, fire and Wizard of Oz, but it never comes together into something greater than the sum of its parts.