Forthcoming: Wildlife

The scuttlebutt on Criterion, Eclipse, and Janus Films. Lists and polls are STRONGLY discouraged.
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mfunk9786
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Forthcoming: Wildlife

#1 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Oct 24, 2018 11:24 am

Paul Dano seems like a really lovely guy - he did a Q&A after this film and could not have been clearer about the decisions he made in it, his reasons for adapting this book, so on and so forth. But it's not a particularly good movie - it's a middling film that is wearing a lot of influences on its sleeve, is bunting when it should be swinging, and sort of indulgent in the way it utilizes that wide-eyed modesty. The lead character through whose lens we see the events unfold is essentially a blank slate - we have no sense of his inner life beyond going from unrealistically smitten with his parents to disappointed in their behavior, but his coping mechanism of just standing and staring with varying degrees of redness in his eyes is not particularly cinematic, nor is it a very good sign of Dano's instincts as a filmmaker. This is, of course, his first go-around - worth mentioning for posterity - but having a character overhear that a man is in his home with his mother and then proceed to, instead of cutting to the next scene (we know what we need to know), show that character peeking through the door for a minute, then walk through his mother's now vacant bedroom looking at discarded clothing, then look out the window at her car, then come back to wander around some more - Dano doesn't know when enough's enough - when quiet moments are becoming gratingly loud. It would be one thing if his lead actor were exhibiting a compelling emotional response to these things, but there's nothing really approaching that - the kid's quite a bit like a young Dano in some respects, with a period-appropriate moon face and big wet eyes - but we never get the sense that he is truly experiencing the world around him in a way that is worth making a film about. Carey Mulligan is great here, if perhaps 20% too hammy, and that juxtaposition just makes things seem more off. There's a strong visual influence of PT Anderson's The Master at times (in a way that is borderline too blatant), some of the lyrical-but-clunky writing that colors a lot of smaller indies that would benefit from a couple more rewrites, and plot contrivances that feel inauthentic even for the particular story that's being told. It's not a bad film, it's just a messy one, and if I'm through being generous, one that doesn't show as much potential for Dano's career as a director as I might have hoped. That being said, the reviews seem to be stellar with myself in the minority, so what do I know?

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hearthesilence
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Re: Wildlife (Paul Dano, 2018)

#2 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Oct 24, 2018 12:47 pm

On the go, but going to past this here - Q&A's at IFC this weekend just announced, they'll probably go fast:

FRI 10/26: Dir. Paul Dano will be joined by producer and actor Jake Gyllenhaal for a Q&A at the 7:25pm show!
SAT 10/27: Q&A with Dano & Gyllenhaal at the 2:35pm & an extended intro at the 4:55pm show, both with special guest moderator Ben Stiller!
SUN 10/28: Q&As with Dano & Gyllenhaal at the 2:35pm & 4:55pm show!

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mfunk9786
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Re: Wildlife (Paul Dano, 2018)

#3 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Oct 24, 2018 2:23 pm

Hopefully Gyllenhaal will have more to do in the Q&A then he did in the film!

I forgot about the IFC logo at the beginning - this seems like an almost surefire Criterion release considering the reception it's getting

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hearthesilence
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Re: Wildlife (Paul Dano, 2018)

#4 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Oct 24, 2018 2:40 pm

I thought it was a fine debut, but it's one that shows promise - it may not be right to say until we see more films, but it felt like the work of a new filmmaker because of the choices he made. There's one recurring device whenever he jumps into a scene mid-action - not always from the son's POV either, this would happen when it's just the audience looking at what's happening in a room. Those scenes often start with the actors blocked like sculptures, where you get everything from the way they're posed, and on-screen it comes off as a little contrived (as well as a bit familiar, I feel like it's a common device I've seen in stage plays, especially when they open a new act or a scene change).

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Re: Wildlife (Paul Dano, 2018)

#5 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Oct 24, 2018 3:28 pm

Yes, it's very stagey, particularly the fade to black at the end. He strikes me as a better potential stage director than film director after this, but perhaps I'm being too harsh - would like to see what he does next.

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Re: Wildlife (Paul Dano, 2018)

#6 Post by Murdoch » Sun Nov 11, 2018 9:32 pm

I had high expectations going into this with Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal in the cast but I wasn't impressed by much of anything here. The central figure of the film, Joe, isn't very interesting. Oxenbould is a sweet looking kid and he played the role well, I just wish Dano had given him more to do. He's a wide-eyed innocent who never breaks free from that archetype, which becomes particularly frustrating as the primary conflict of the film unfolds and he becomes little more than an often silent witness to the events. Gyllenhaal as Joe's dad disappears from the screen with little warning, and while the film lingers with Oxenbould and Mulligan's awkward exchanges, the far more interesting event of Gyllenhaal fighting a forest fire right at the edge of town is oddly given no screen time. His early departure feels forced and Mulligan's sudden descent into desperate housewife gave me a sense of whiplash. What follows is a dull affair that's both predictable and tedious in how it unfolds. Oxenbould name-checks dad here and there and yet the forest fire blaring just outside town is treated with the same concern as a distant war rather than a dangerous infero that's a short drive away.
SpoilerShow
Worse yet, it's resolved off-screen and Gyllenhaal gets a short few lines about it being hell, then the film tosses the whole thing aside, happy to have had its contrivance and unwilling to go any further with it.
I can't really understand why this is garnering so much praise but I found it a chore to sit through. The location shots are nice but it's a forgettable experience. Hopefully Dano can come up with something more compelling next time.

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Re: Wildlife (Paul Dano, 2018)

#7 Post by John Cope » Mon Nov 12, 2018 12:35 am

Murdoch wrote:
Sun Nov 11, 2018 9:32 pm
I had high expectations going into this with Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal in the cast but I wasn't impressed by much of anything here. The central figure of the film, Joe, isn't very interesting. Oxenbould is a sweet looking kid and he played the role well, I just wish Dano had given him more to do. He's a wide-eyed innocent who never breaks free from that archetype, which becomes particularly frustrating as the primary conflict of the film unfolds and he becomes little more than an often silent witness to the events. Gyllenhaal as Joe's dad disappears from the screen with little warning, and while the film lingers with Oxenbould and Mulligan's awkward exchanges, the far more interesting event of Gyllenhaal fighting a forest fire right at the edge of town is oddly given no screen time. His early departure feels forced and Mulligan's sudden descent into desperate housewife gave me a sense of whiplash. What follows is a dull affair that's both predictable and tedious in how it unfolds. Oxenbould name-checks dad here and there and yet the forest fire blaring just outside town is treated with the same concern as a distant war rather than a dangerous infero that's a short drive away.
SpoilerShow
Worse yet, it's resolved off-screen and Gyllenhaal gets a short few lines about it being hell, then the film tosses the whole thing aside, happy to have had its contrivance and unwilling to go any further with it.
I can't really understand why this is garnering so much praise but I found it a chore to sit through. The location shots are nice but it's a forgettable experience. Hopefully Dano can come up with something more compelling next time.
For what it's worth, this does at least sound like a very faithful adaptation of the text. Having said that, I found the book so depressing that I can't engender much enthusiasm for the film. By the way, does the film include a scene in which the Mulligan character and her son drive up near the fire and have dinner at a diner there? That's as close as the book comes to addressing that subject directly (which frankly I don't consider any kind of failure--that's just not where its focus is and the fire itself has a more symbolic function).

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Re: Wildlife (Paul Dano, 2018)

#8 Post by Professor Wagstaff » Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:23 am

John Cope wrote:
Mon Nov 12, 2018 12:35 am
By the way, does the film include a scene in which the Mulligan character and her son drive up near the fire and have dinner at a diner there? That's as close as the book comes to addressing that subject directly (which frankly I don't consider any kind of failure--that's just not where its focus is and the fire itself has a more symbolic function).
It does have both of those scenes.

I guess I'm going to be the more enthusiastic forum member for Wildlife. I saw it a few days back and was really impressed by the rich acting, the fine direction, and Diego Garcia's photography. It feels lived-in and of the rich theatrical filmmaking we saw more of from guys like Lumet or Kazan. I disagree completely regarding Oxenbould's Joe, who has the unshowy part but the really tricky one that lacks the showier elements of say Mulligan's part. Joe can't do much about his parents' imploding marriage because as an obedient fourteen-year-old he's not at the age where he's likely to speak up, but he's old enough to be painfully aware of the chaos around him. I appreciated seeing a teen doing damage control the only way he knows how: trying to contain the blaze of the marriage much like the firefighters do with the forest fire. He shops for his mother. He makes sure she does her job. He invokes each parent's name to the other in hopes that some lingering sense of responsibility will kick in. All that rang really true to that age. Of course not all that will work out well because like his classmate says at the beginning, once a blaze reaches a town, any precautions are too late.

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Re: Wildlife (Paul Dano, 2018)

#9 Post by bad future » Mon Nov 12, 2018 2:30 am

This film really clicked for me almost from the start, in a way it seems it never did for anyone else here (edit- oh, I didn't see you there Professor Wagstaff!) It's possible I was so smitten that I was ready to project a lot into its empty spaces by the end, but I went in with no expectations so it really caught me off guard how taken with it I was to begin with.

To me Carey Mulligan is unquestionably the lead of the film. The focus on her son's perspective didn't make him seem like the actual focal point (scenes of his job and social life notwithstanding); more just a nice alternative to a pure omniscient perspective, a way to form a picture of her in the space between the vignettes that pass through the kid's awareness and assignment of importance; the pretense of an extra degree of remove from the usual implicit "this is what the author(s) decided was most relevant to or suggestive of the big picture" although, yes, of course that's what it ultimately is either way. It also kind of gets away from the American Beauty thing where a family's loss of innocence is supposedly just inherently interesting and tragic, and even almost gets away without casting the events of the film as "bad" per se since it's just one kid's idea of his parents complicated by new experiences. I didn't need him to be richer or more active himself since his unformed quality feels right for that age, and more importantly for his main function as a walking spotlight on Mulligan.

With Mulligan as lead, I think it's interesting that, if I'm not mistaken, we don't even see her face in her first scene, and it's only after several Gyllenhaal-centric scenes that she gets much attention at all. But the way her character blossoms as Gyllenhaal's starts to recede was absolutely thrilling to me. For some reason I started thinking of The Best Years of Our Lives and how the suggestion of Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright and..the boy.. becoming stronger in their patriarch's absence, and out of necessity once he comes home somewhat broken, feels rich enough for its own movie. Certainly that aspect is present in Best Years.. (which is perfect the way it is) but I loved the sense that this film was the implicit flipside of whatever movie Gyllenhaal was off starring in. It's possible I initially thought of that WWII film because I misheard the early mention of the setting as 1950 instead of 1960, and figured Gyllenhaal must have finished serving five years prior and was never fully able to integrate back into home life. Either way, the shadow of war definitely hangs over the film, most explicitly in Bill Camp's disabled veteran... If Gyllenhaal's character didn't actually serve, I wouldn't be surprised if he was at least influenced by seeing a whole generation leave home full of purpose. Mulligan for her part is great; maybe the most I've ever liked her. It doesn't amount to any kind of big statement on marriage or parents or childhood but I liked that it didn't seem to be reaching too hard for one (my threshold for movies swinging their intentions around may be higher than yours.) Just a slice of life that, to my surprise, had me rapt.

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Re: Wildlife (Paul Dano, 2018)

#10 Post by brundlefly » Mon Nov 12, 2018 11:58 am

Murdoch wrote:
Sun Nov 11, 2018 9:32 pm
I had high expectations going into this with Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal in the cast but I wasn't impressed by much of anything here. The central figure of the film, Joe, isn't very interesting. Oxenbould is a sweet looking kid and he played the role well, I just wish Dano had given him more to do. He's a wide-eyed innocent who never breaks free from that archetype, which becomes particularly frustrating as the primary conflict of the film unfolds and he becomes little more than an often silent witness to the events. Gyllenhaal as Joe's dad disappears from the screen with little warning, and while the film lingers with Oxenbould and Mulligan's awkward exchanges, the far more interesting event of Gyllenhaal fighting a forest fire right at the edge of town is oddly given no screen time. His early departure feels forced and Mulligan's sudden descent into desperate housewife gave me a sense of whiplash. What follows is a dull affair that's both predictable and tedious in how it unfolds. Oxenbould name-checks dad here and there and yet the forest fire blaring just outside town is treated with the same concern as a distant war rather than a dangerous infero that's a short drive away.
SpoilerShow
Worse yet, it's resolved off-screen and Gyllenhaal gets a short few lines about it being hell, then the film tosses the whole thing aside, happy to have had its contrivance and unwilling to go any further with it.
I can't really understand why this is garnering so much praise but I found it a chore to sit through. The location shots are nice but it's a forgettable experience. Hopefully Dano can come up with something more compelling next time.
Looking for the fire or Gyllenhaal to save the film sounds like something the Oxenbould character would do, and I'm more than a little of the Oxenbould character myself. I’ll help carry the torch for this one, but there’s no way to be objective; as a child of divorce, raised by a mother prone to depression and who’d been tsk-tsked out of working while married, this landed home hard. Emotionally it fell somewhere between the traumatic accuracy of Squid and the Whale and the appreciative reflection of 20th Century Women. Like bad future above, I was in in from the start, whether I wanted to be or not.

It helps that the film played to my inclinations: I prefer watching intelligent, complicated women process things to watching literal fires being fought. Gyllenhaal and the fire are shoved to the side for a reason, it’s not their film, and boy howdy would it be wrong for a work concerned with female roles and repression to run off and become a testosterone-fueled adventure story. (Though Dano directed, I like that a husband-wife team wrote the script, and hope Kazan’s name doesn’t drop from the conversation.)

As someone who’s been a fan of Mulligan’s since she was so good in that one Doctor Who episode, and had been wondering if she’d ever find a lead in anything as impressive as that one Doctor Who episode, this was a long time coming. Her face is the movie, couldn’t not watch it. There are always a dozen different things going on behind her character’s eyes – the expectation of her sacrifice, her need for survival, the accumulation of dashed hopes, the guilt of playing along and the urge to not play along, the desire to go and make her own failures. There is a life in that mind and too much of it’s not reflected in the life she’s living. I love that there’s no pat righteousness to the character, I love watching her realize her own selfishness.

Gyllenhaal’s casting is perfect for me because I don’t think much of him as an actor. All effort, no depth, only capable of one thing at a time. It’s a perfect off-balance of concern and talent.

And I like the movies where the children observe more than act, granting all the events around them the weight of influence and possibility. The film is Mulligan’s, but it’s Joe’s film. (His job – and the predictable, perfect final shot – underline that.) He’s at the age when he can see his parents as people, is starting to gauge how much of his self is made from the flaws of each. I don’t know that Oxenbould is any good at anything else, but he gives good attention and that’s everything here. He’s good enough at that that I was disappointed when the film would get insecure and turn and show us what he was looking at – like that fire.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wildlife

#11 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Jun 25, 2019 2:09 pm


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Re: Forthcoming: Wildlife

#12 Post by knives » Tue Jun 25, 2019 2:26 pm

What indication is there from that that this is coming?

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Forthcoming: Wildlife

#13 Post by FrauBlucher » Tue Jun 25, 2019 3:39 pm

Just an assertion because it’s an IFC film and Criterion seems to have a relationship with Dano.

Right before Mildred Pierce was released they held a public screening of the restoration with many Criterion execs and personnel on hand, along with a Q&A before hand with Lee Kline. Paul Dano and Joel Coen were introduced as a special guests.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wildlife

#14 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jun 25, 2019 4:12 pm

I strongly doubt this is coming from Criterion, but their modern pick-ups don’t always make sense, so who knows. I suspect we’ll see Dano pop up on an extra on a future release of something else and this can go back to the Films sub, but again, we’ll see

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Re: Forthcoming: Wildlife

#15 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Jun 25, 2019 4:48 pm

There's no disc release yet - this was sort of a leap on my part so I'm glad to move it back, but I'll bet we see it on Criterion by the end of the year - it was one of the best reviewed movies of last year even though it's not a favorite on this forum

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Re: Forthcoming: Wildlife

#16 Post by Ribs » Tue Jun 25, 2019 5:30 pm

The shelf is clearly from September last year so the visit was just done as part of the film’s press tour

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Re: Forthcoming: Wildlife

#17 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Jun 25, 2019 6:35 pm

It's spine #1000

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