Was there any film so anxiously awaited in the late 1980s and early 1990s as Wild at Heart? The picture was released to a cult that had just been born: that of its director, David Lynch, whose Blue Velvet, in 1986, had reaped an enthusiastic following among the mainstream hipsters who had missed Eraserhead in 1977, and whose budding appetite for Lynch's singular brand of the macabre had been whetted by the prime-time ghoulishness of 1990's Twin Peaks. Wild at Heart's Palme d'Or win at Cannes just before its 1990 release only tantalized more; and after what seemed for Lynch's starving fans a nearly eternal wait, the film opened at last to high expectations, but decidedly mixed reviews.
Wild at Heart was puzzling, because it was screwed up and it was hard to figure out why. Time - and, 14 years later, the DVD release - helps to clear up that central enigma. Based very loosely on Barry Gifford's novel, this manic, Southern Gothic road movie now seems too deliberately weird. And in retrospect the cause seems to be that its creator, a strange man if the available evidence of his films is to be believed, and one who then was only recently revered as a certain type of genius, was trying so hard just to be himself.
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