Something Wild

Jonathan DemmeUSA113 minutes1986RColourEnglish

Jonathan Demme joins us for this 30th-anniversary screening of his anarchic cult classic, about an irrepressible free spirit (Melanie Griffith) who leads a straightlaced banker (Jeff Daniels) on a wild cross-country road trip.

Jonathan Demme is a director who can do it all. He's worked with B-movie impresario Roger Corman, he's trailblazed new concert-movie territory with films like Stop Making Sense, and he's helmed prestige pictures such as The Silence of the Lambs. But in Something Wild, he somehow compressed all of this variety into a single film. Screwball comedy, road movie, character study, offbeat thriller: one of this audacious cult classic's many pleasures is its penchant for repeatedly shifting gears and taking detours.

Something Wild tracks an unlikely romance between a straightlaced banker (Jeff Daniels) and a freewheeling, chameleonic divorcee (Melanie Griffith). She catches him dining and dashing from a Manhattan eatery, and senses in him a "closet rebel" and kindred spirit. Despite his protests, she whisks him away in her green convertible for an adventure involving hard liquor, handcuffs, and a high school reunion. Over the course of their accelerated affair, each will find out — repeatedly — that the other is not who they seemed to be.

Few films convey the plasticity of persona with such invention, and Daniels and Griffith are an inspired pairing. The supporting cast includes Demme's fellow indie auteurs John Sayles and John Waters, and the film introduced audiences to a force of nature known as Ray Liotta. The score is by Laurie Anderson and John Cale, while the soundtrack features music from the likes of David Byrne, Cuba's Celia Cruz, and Jamaica's Jimmy Cliff. That dive into Caribbean music is just one of Something Wild's nods to a fascinating performance of race that runs through the film's characters and themes. Demme, also at the Festival with JT + The Tennessee Kids, will introduce our 30th-anniversary screening and return afterward for an extended Q&A.

CAMERON BAILEY

CrimeRoad MovieRomanceComedy