New York businessman Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels) is taking his lunch in a restaurant and asks for the cheque, but when he realises he can get away without paying seeing as how the staff are lost in conversation, he sneaks out of the door. But then someone calls after him, a young woman who accuses him of trying to escape and he sheepishly admits it; however, she's not one of the staff, she calls herself Lulu (Melanie Griffith) and sees Charles' act of rebellion as a sign he needs a spot of excitement in his life, so invites him to take a ride back to his office with her. He protests but eventually agrees, so imagine his perturbation when she drives him straight out of the city and towards the nearest motel. Charles is set for a life changing experience...
Before Working Girl, Melanie Griffith's signature role was in Something Wild, and for many cult movie fans, it still is. Despite being apparently impulsive, Lulu, with her Louise Brooks hairstyle and character name, is a mystery for most of the film, a story which keeps you guessing as to where it will head next. Scripted By E. Max Frye, you actually get two films for the price of one here, as it starts out a a cheeky road movie and transforms into a threatening thriller about halfway through, precisely at the moment an electrifying Ray Liotta, in one of his first big screen roles, appears.
Until then, although the story catches you off guard, just as Lulu does Charles, all this could pass for a kooky romantic comedy, and eighties version of the screwball kind where the carefree woman romances the uptight man almost despite herself. When Lulu gets her captive into that motel room, she whips off her clothes and handcuffs him to the bed, movie shorthand for a character with daring spirit, and they spend the rest of the day and into the night enjoying themselves alone. Charles soldiers on for about half the film with those handcuffs dangling from one wrist, but he will be wearing them in less happier times later on.
Director Jonathan Demme packs his film with two things: cameos from artistic people he admires, and music he likes on the soundtrack. There are so many songs playing in almost every scene that the actual score by John Cale and Laurie Anderson barely gets a look in, songs by the likes of David Byrne (whose mother appears in a shop with Demme's mother!), Oingo Boingo, New Order, and prominent playing of the Troggs' oldie "Wild Thing", all of which serve to make watching this the visual equivalent of listening to the soundtrack album. The Feelies also appear to do covers at the high school reunion Lulu drags Charles to.
Back at the plot, lying is the theme, where Lulu lies about many things, like her name which is really Audrey, and telling her mother, yes, they visit her too, that they are married, although Charles has already told her he has a wife. This comes up at the reunion as well, and everything seems to be going well until a) Charles meets someone from work there and b) Ray turns up acting overfriendly. I have the impression Something Wild isn't for true rebels, it's more for the milder types of this world who occasionally fantasise about giving up their lives and opting for a more hedonistic time of it. Griffith may start with a devil-may-care attitude, but she ends up being the worried and responsible one, another sign that the film may not exactly have the courage of its convictions. Still, you can see why it's still admired, even if it could have been a lot quirkier.
American director with a exploitation beginnings who carved out a successful Hollywood career as a caring exponent of a variety of characters. Worked in the early 70s as a writer on films like Black Mama, White Mama before directing his first picture for producer Roger Corman, the women-in-prison gem Caged Heat. Demme's mainstream debut was the 1977 CB drama Handle With Care (aka Citizens Band), which were followed by such great films as the thriller Last Embrace, tenderhearted biopic Melvin and Howard, wartime drama Swing Shift, classic Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, and black comedies Something Wild and Married to the Mob.
Demme's Thomas Harris adaptation The Silence of the Lambs was one of 1991's most successful films, making Hannibal Lecter a household name, while the worthy AIDS drama Philadelphia was equally popular. Since then, Demme has floundered somewhat - Beloved and The Truth About Charlie were critical and commercial failures, although 2004's remake of The Manchurian Candidate was a box office hit. Rachel Getting Married also has its fans, though Meryl Streep vehicle Ricki and the Flash was not a great one to go out on. He was also an advocate of the documentary form, especially music: his final release was a Justin Timberlake concert.