Wild at Heart (1990)

After Blue Velvet, Lynch made the first season of Twin Peaks, then pivoted into Wild at Heart. It’s a series of deliberately melodramatic, hyper-violent and sexual scenes stitched together into a road movie, with a tenuously-made connection to the Wizard of Oz.

The performances are amazing, but I found the overall effect rather numbing. I didn’t really care about Sailor and Lula’s relationship – in fact, I wanted Lula to strike out on her own, Sailor being mostly a liability. Lula uses Sailor’s violence to escape the clutches of her shockingly possessive mother, who sets off a pack of creatively grim villains to kill Sailor and bring Lula back home. The most interesting part of the film is the middle section, where the sexually ravenous couple begin to open up to each other, and the bad omens mount, including a haunting scene where a woman is wandering near a car crash, not knowing she is dying, looking for her things in the sand.

Lynch said he wanted to make ‘a really modern romance in a violent world – a picture about finding love in Hell’, and I think he succeeded. For me, the ironic tone and melodrama took me too far out of the film, and I found myself sometimes bored, which I hesitate to say about a film with such an enviable reputation. I also have to remind myself that there was nothing like this at the time, and Wild at Heart’s influence can be seen in Reservoir Dogs, True Romance and Pulp Fiction.

Wild at Heart takes Lynch in a different direction. I didn’t love it, but it’s an important stepping stone. Everyone in the film seems to be having fun, and it’s a perfect palette cleanser after the double hit of slow-paced small town darkness in Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks. This is David Lynch on the road and cutting loose.