Wild at Heart (1990)

Finishing off this week’s Cage-a-thon is my all time favorite Nicolas Cage role, the character of Sailor Ripley in David Lynch’s masterpiece Wild at Heart.

Following the filming of the pilot episode of Twin Peaks and attempting to get several projects (including Ronnie Rocket and One Saliva Bubble) off the ground David Lynch reteamed with Peaks author Barry Gifford to unleash this stylish noir thriller about young lovers on the run.

Perhaps the greatest love story I’ve ever seen told on film, its the story of the Elvis loving, snake-skin jacket clad Southern outlaw Sailor and his beautiful North Carolinian lover Lula Pace (Laura Dern) as they head across the country in search of hope, happiness and a world without Lula’s overbearing mother Marietta (Dern’s real life mother Diane Ladd). The couple nearly share one personality and its a joy to see their different sides: the sexy gum-chewing Marilyn, the slick hard-rocking Elvis, come together.

Its sounds like a story you may have heard but its unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The film opens with Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood” followed quickly by Cage stomping in the head of a young black man. When the couple hit the road, Lula’s mother at one point smears makeup all over her face and thrashes around the bathroom in anger. Her private detective boyfriend (Harry Dean Stanton) gets kidnapped (and I imagine raped?) by a tribe of crazies. Following a beautiful driving montage set to Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”, Lula and Sailor come across a horrific car accident scene and some heavily concussed victims (Sherilyn Fenn). And in the films’ final act, our beloved couple get mixed up with a criminal named Bobby Peru (played by Willem Dafoe sporting the absolute most nastiest trailer park teeth you’ve ever seen). Did I mention the entire film is filled with references and homages to The Wizard of Oz including crystal balls, yellow brick roads and an appearance by Glinda The Good Witch. That following a brawl during a heavy metal concert Sailor serenades Lula with a rendition of Presley’s “Love Me”. And Crispin Glover puts cockroaches in his underwear.

We’re in David Lynch territory. And with Cage taking center stage and supplying many of the films best moments (he himself included the jacket, the Elvis songs) its macabre cinematic genius. To quote Sailor himself “Its Rockin’ Good News”.

-John

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