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JONATHAN DEMME'S QUIRKY ROAD PICTURE 'SOMETHING WILD'

Ray Liotta's  in SOMETHING WILD Year: 1986 Rating: ****1/2

Director Jonathan Demme's sexy road-flick SOMETHING WILD plays around with its title threefold, beginning with stiff-suited yuppie Jeff Daniels skipping out on a humble New York cafe's lunch check...

And after being spotted and then picked-up by an extremely loose and experienced Melanie Griffith, taken down the departing highway to a rural motel for some ultra-R-rated sex, the audience (and Daniels) only think they know who's truly WILD here...

Ray Liotta in SOMETHING WILD

Until the 45-minute "Kong-mark" when, after the romance hits a peak at Griffith's ten-year high school reunion, purposefully bordering on endearing small town cinema saccharine, Ray Liotta as Ray — Griffith's freshly sprung ex-con/ex-husband — shows up, and the breezy vehicle veers from fun-wild to wildly-dangerous: A quirky romantic comedy now sharing a Neo Noir/thriller template...

During the best scene in another, more dark and shabby motel, Daniels is stuck between Liotta and Griffith in what's been natural to them all along... having nothing to do with sex, only facts. Daniels's initially polite cat-and-mouse wordplay with Liotta makes one forget his prior risque physicality and odd couple banter with Griffith the film once seemed entirely built around: the boys wield the truly daring anti-chemistry, and at this point even she knows it.

Jeff Daniels and Ray Liotta in SOMETHING WILD with Melanie Griffith

Then act three, while lacking the free-form edge of director Jonathan Demme's anything-goes journey so far, has Daniels intrepidly backtracking to retrieve the girl who's always been far beyond him, and who, plot-wise, has taken a passive, captured backseat... At this point, for either man, she's what's to win or lose.

During the entirety, people and locations along the way, from hitchhikers to churches to restaurants to liquor store owners to used car dealers, are pure Americana, affable and grungy alike and, as the road winds down, Liotta morphs from the 1950's style chain-smoking hoodlum (at one point romancing super-cute blonde Kristin Olsen for strategic reasons) into a formidable horror genre presence...

Kristin Olsen as Tracy falling for Ray Liotta's bad boy Ray in Jonathan Demme's SOMETHING WILD

With menacing eyes and an offbeat charm, SOMETHING WILD is the place for GOODFELLAS fans to see Liotta not only desperate, unbridled and uncaged, but basically foreshadowing Joe Pesci's talky sociopath; that is, no one would call Ray's Ray a clown, either...

But Daniels comes pretty damn close. Risking his neck and eventually standing firm, he's the only character with a genuine arc. Perhaps the movie's title belonged to him all along — in both action and reaction.

Jeff Daniels and Ray Liotta captured in Jonathan Demme's SOMETHING WILD
Ray Liotta as Ray in Jonathan Demme's SOMETHING WILD
Kristin Olson plays a motel worker who crushes on Ray and helps him out in Something Wild
Kristin Olsen as Tracy in Jonathan Demme's SOMETHING WILD with Ray Liotta
Kristin Olsen as Tracy in Jonathan Demme's SOMETHING WILD
Jeff Daniels and Ray Liotta in Jonathan Demme's SOMETHING WILD
Margaret Colin and Jeff Daniels in Jonathan Demme's SOMETHING WILD
Melanie Griffith in Jonathan Demme's SOMETHING WILD
Ray Liotta practices Darwin's theory to Jeff Daniels in SOMETHING WILD
Ray Liotta's Ray (or stuntman) breaking glass in SOMETHING WILD
Ray Liotta mimics the Dragnet theme to summarize his rebel wife with a yuppie in SOMETHING WILD
Margaret Colin and Ray Liotta crash Something Wild
Jeff Daniels and Kristin Olsen in SOMETHING WILD
Jeff Daniels and Kristin Olsen in SOMETHING WILD
Jeff Daniels and Kristin Olsen in SOMETHING WILD
Jeff Daniels and Kristin Olsen in SOMETHING WILD
Kristin Olsen as Tracy in SOMETHING WILD
Ray Liotta as Ray and Kristin Olsen as Tracy in SOMETHING WILD
Kristin Olson could have made a great moll for Ray Liotta in SOMETHING WILD
An adorable, helpful Heather Shaw as Choir Girl in SOMETHING WILD
Jeff Daniels reacts to being woken up in the third act of SOMETHING WILD
Ray Liotta gives a "you tiger" expression/noise for his enemies in SOMETHING WILD
Ray Liotta's groupie Kristin Olsen as Tracy running the motel in SOMETHING WILD

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