Book vs. Movie: Wild At Heart

Hello, my darling readers!
Today we’re going to talk about Wild at Heart, one of my favorite pictures ever, and the book it is based on. Let’s see whether the books gets me as excited as the film!

The Plot (according to Rotten Tomatoes):

After serving prison time for a self-defense killing, Sailor Ripley (Nicolas Cage) reunites with girlfriend Lula Fortune (Laura Dern). Lula’s mother, Marietta (Diane Ladd), desperate to keep them apart, hires a hit man to kill Sailor. But he finds a whole new set of troubles when he and Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe), an old buddy who’s also out to get Sailor, try to rob a store. When Sailor lands in jail yet again, the young lovers appear further than ever from the shared life they covet.

Book vs. Movie:

I think my movie review for Wild at Heart was one of the first things I ever posted on this blog. It’s by far my favorite David Lynch film and one of my all-time favorites in general. But for the longest time, I didn’t realize that it’s based on a novel! So, naturally, I had to read it and see whether I would enjoy it as much as the film. Spoiler alert: I did not.

Let’s briefly recap why I love the movie. First of all, Laura Dern is absolutely impeccable. I love every single thing about her in Wild at Heart and I honestly couldn’t imagine anybody else playing the role. I’m a bit more variable on Nicolas Cage, but he was an interesting choice, and he does a good job. It’s a cool twist that Laura Dern’s IRL mum also plays her mum in the film (and even got nominated for an Academy Award). In general, the cast is super impressive. Those of you who have watched a Lynch production or two (especially Twin Peaks) can play “do I know this cast member” as you’ll see many familiar faces.

The story is super weird (as is customary for David Lynch movies) and it doesn’t entirely feel like it makes sense. It’s just a crazy trip, but it works. All the mentions of Wizard of Oz definitely add to that. But again, it’s fun to try and spot all the references, I swear I notice a new one every time I watch the film. Wild at Heart has a very unique vibe and it’s great.

Finally, there are so many iconic scenes and quotes in this film. I have quoted it on several occasions and Laura Dern saying “This world’s wild at heart and weird on top!” lives in my head rent-free. So, I had every intention of devouring the book and loving it.

Well, it took me almost an entire month to finish a novel of fewer than 200 pages. That is not a good sign. I feel like you can very much tell that the book was written by a man. It’s not full-on menwritingwomen on Reddit but there were moments that I found very cringy. Honestly, there even was a chapter dealing with rape that made me put down the book and not look at it for almost two weeks because it irritated me so much.

Almost all the iconic lines from the film appear within the first three chapters of the novel, so I soon wondered what the book would have to offer after that. The answer was: not much. Lula is a bit aloof and weird and in the movie, it felt charming (which is certainly to a large part due to Laura Dern) but in the book, I found her more annoying and irritating at times. There are just too many instances of her weird moments, while in the film we have enough to get the picture but not so many as to be overkill.

In the book, Johnnie Farragut is somewhat of an aspiring writer and Gifford included chapters of Johnnie’s ideas. I soon ended up skipping them because they were neither interesting nor good and didn’t add a single thing to the story other than making it longer. In general, the chapters were extremely short which somehow intensified the impression of lack of substance that I got. There just seems to be a lot in the novel that doesn’t need to be there. Maybe I would have liked it better, had it been a short story? Who knows.

Another thing I should probably address is the ending. Overall, David Lynch stuck pretty close to the original story with only a few little tweaks. However, at the very end, he added an additional scene you could say. To be honest, I prefer Lynch’s ending. It could have worked the way we have it in the novel if there had been a little more substance to the characters. As is, I just didn’t like it all too much.

I don’t know how it was possible for such a short book to drag on this much. All I know is that I enjoyed it significantly less than the film. Lynch really took all the good parts from the novel and improved on them. As much as I loved the adaptation, the book is just underwhelming.

Did you prefer the book or the movie? Let me know in the comments!

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One thought on “Book vs. Movie: Wild At Heart

  1. Pingback: Wrapping it up for May! | The Punk Theory

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