Looking Back on ’86: ‘Something Wild’

If Something Wild was released today, the movie could be seen as a genre twist on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. Melanie Griffith plays Audrey Hankel; she dresses weirdly, she cheerfully starts conversations with strangers, and she’s willing to do spontaneous road trips with them. Yep, all signs point to MPDG. All in high contrast to the shy, more conservatively dressed Charles (Jeff Daniels) who ends up joining her.  But the movie doesn’t leave them as mere quirks or stereotypes, as the story goes on, they become fully formed human beings.

Jonathan Demme directs this movie to near perfection: The abrupt change in tone halfway through works without betraying the rest of the movie because Demme allows it to land naturally and with enough aplomb to get the audience excited for this new turn in the film. It doesn’t feel forced. It’s not the kind of twist that makes you wish the movie had stayed in the same tune it started in. The movie has a natural, mundane look to it but with the characters dressed in bright colors making them stand out and giving the movie a style that feels both real and cartoonish in a good way. And with Demme you also get some great filmmaker cameos such as John Sayles and John Waters, and great musician cameos such as The Feelies and Sister Carol. It must be mentioned that the movie also has one of the coolest end credit sequences ever put on film. It’s surprising and charming, just like the film itself.

Something Wild is something of an underrated gem. It has its fans, it’s respected in many cinephile circuits, but it has never quite joined the ranks of the classics. Could it be the change in tone? Maybe. But that’s what makes it a great experience to watch.  This movie stands out as one of the most memorable films of 1986 and of the 80s overall. The fact that it almost feels like it could be made today is a testament to its endurance.

You can get Something Wild here.

Oscar Moreno
Oscar Moreno
Mexican. Writer. Filmmaker. Lover of good laughs and good food.