Wild at Heart (1990)
On a surface level, Wild at Heart follows up some of the instruments from Blue Velvet: violence used for visceral effect, black comedy realized through outlandish characters and situations. The problem with this fifth entry in David Lynch's filmography, however, is that there is very little below that surface level. Lynch resorts to irony to make his banal crime story and simplistic romance bearable, and although the two young leads Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern are obviously in on the joke, their performances are too flat to be able to transcend it or add layers that aren't painfully obvious. As a forerunner for the Tarantinoesque violence-glorifying 1990s, Wild at Heart was alternatively hailed and lambasted for its graphic violence when it came out. And indeed, whatever artistic merit Lynch achieves here can be traced to a couple of extravagant scenes which almost take on a life of their own, outside of the realm of the story, such as Harry Dean Stanton's last scene in the movie, or a couple of scenes elevated by a brilliantly funny Willem Dafoe. The problem is that Lynch can never fully incorporate either of these potentially vibrant segments into an otherwise far too detached and self-conscious story which is more a mockery of itself than it is of anything else. That being said, the mockery is sometimes very funny. Wild at Heart is undoubtedly the closest Lynch ever came to a clear-cut comedy.