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May 10, 2011

Jonathan Demme’s anything-but-ordinary road trip still lives up to its name
Movie Rating: 9/10 BD Rating: 8/10

Like baseball and rock 'n' roll, road movies have become a fixture in American pop culture. Funny that, since the genre often follows the interstate exploits of criminals, hippies and weirdoes

A should-be classic if there ever was one, Jonathan Demme’s late-’80s beaut Something Wild (Criterion) is a road movie that takes several ingenious detours along the way. What begins as a screwball comedy boldly swerves into moodier territory, making for an unforgettable highway odyssey. (David Lynch’s Wild At Heart is another nutty trip worth taking.)

An eccentric gal (Melanie Griffith) turns a conservative businessman’s (Jeff Daniels) world upside down (literally) after they meet cute in a New York City diner. Without his firm consent, they embark on a wild weekend that kicks off with boozy motel sex, then a high school reunion, then a robbery, and then even more mayhem. Their trip’s latter half is a far darker journey, thanks to the intrusion of a lovesick ex-con (charismatically and maniacally played by Ray Liotta, in his first major role).

Though a commentary would be swell, we do get a revealing 30-minute interview in which Demme talks about how Orion pictures restored his love for filmmaking after the maltreatment of his previous big-screen feature, Swing Shift. The director also discusses the casting of his three leads and, surprising no one, the film’s outstanding soundtrack that includes an opening credits song by David Byrne and a sweet cameo/Bowie cover by The Feelies. Also available is a brief chat with the film’s screenwriter, E. Max Frye, discussing the script’s many rewrites.

More or less a Criterion standard, we’re offered the film’s trailer in high-def and an invaluable essay booklet. Likewise, the a/v treatment (approved by Demme and longtime collaborator/DP extraordinaire Tak Fujimoto) is visibly stunning.

The past few months have already been a blessing for Demme fans, with special edition re-issues of under-appreciated early hits Caged Heat and Crazy Mama, and the long-awaited DVD debut of Fighting Mad. Re-experiencing Something Wild on DVD or Blu-ray is the delicious icing on an already very tasty cake.