Tuesday, July 3, 2012

For some reason we watched "Something Wild" (1986) and ponder a bit on "Manic Pixie Girls"

I dunno.  The other night it came on HBO and I was messing with uploading photos, etc...  And I did say "every movie in 2012".

The movie is probably most remarkable for the 1980's-ness of the idea and overall feel.

Of the sub-genre of movies now referred to as "The Manic Pixie Dreamgirl" movie, Something Wild (1986) follows the adventures that follow when a straightlaced stocks and bonds man (Jeff Daniels) gets hi-jacked by Melanie Griffith channeling Louise Brooks for 1/3rd of the movie (the character goes by "Lulu", among other names).  I've never really understood the appeal of Melanie Griffiths, and I'm not sure this movie did much to change that perception.  She's not a bad actress, but she seemed much more important in the 1980's than necessary, and while she's fine in the movie...

The idea behind the Manic Pixie Girl movies is that the right girl will find your poor, lost soul and save you from the comfort zone that you've spent decades building but which now, clearly, doesn't work anymore.  She's often an iconoclast, seemingly invulnerable and always sexually charged.  Sometimes the movies can be a bit creepy, if the Manic Pixie Girl is significantly younger than our hero, or even underage.

I'm not going to say the right girl can't shake things up for a guy in real life, but there's something odd about way these movies work that always feels a bit strained.

There's a certain weird high-school or undergrad take on women, a possessive object-oriented approach to character that I think calls back to how far away girls seem in younger days when you have absolutely no idea how to communicate with the object of your desire, especially someone who seems perfectly happy without you (ie: has no idea you exist).  And I guess I get it, I just sort of see characters skewing towards the one in this movie as "unstable, crazy people who you can enjoy in your personal life, but you have to know might explode at any minute".  But the idea vs. the reality of a person is, maybe, one of the best realizations is a worthy topic for movie making, I think.

Curiously, movies deal with this stock character differently.  Some stay manic pixie girls and dance out of frame mostly untouched by the lead character by movie's end, and in other cases they're Melanie Griffiths here, where their "growth" means abandoning the MPDG character and becomes...  sort of boring by films end.

But I mentioned the 80's-ness.

The movie begins in New York, I believe.   With a blond-haired stock broker on the make.  The soundtrack, including Paul Simon-friendly World Beat tunes and touching lightly on primordial but suburban friendly hip-hop.  Griffiths' lack of self-consciousness at wearing a huge Africa medallion for a chunk of the movie (we were still working some stuff out in 1986).  The utter mistrust and difference between city and country.  The movie devolves into this weird thing where Daniels and Griffiths have to fight a young and scrappy looking Ray Liotta to the death.  It was like the movie forgot what it was about somewhere at the hour mark or a near two-hour film.

There's a subplot about going to see Lulu's mom that doesn't really go anywhere except to set some baselines for who Lulu is that seem like they could have been better handled.  I dunno.

The movie was directed by the very talented Jonathan Demme,  The cast is fine, but the material feels oddly dated.  I dunno.

This is probably enough talk about a movie I was barely watching.

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