Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Wildlife starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal opening Cannes: My take on the book by Richard Ford #book2movie


Wow! I’ve just finished Richard Ford’s 1990 novel Wildlife. The taut story of a marriage falling apart before the eyes of the couple’s sixteen-year-old son, the screen adaptation is actor Paul Dano’s first foray behind the camera. He scripted the film with his longtime girlfriend and collaborator, Zoe Kazan.The film made its debut in January at Sundance, not sure when Wildlife comes out here, but when it does, I’ll be watching. The wife, Jeanette —played by Carey Mulligan in the film—is clearly disappointed by but sticking with her husband, Jerry, who, at thirty-nine, seems to be on a long losing streak. A former bookkeeper/substitute teacher, she makes excuses for him, tries to let things slide, offers to look for work. Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a golf pro, a drinker, a man who hasn’t made much of his life. The couple and their son, Joe, have moved around quite a bit. 




When Jerry loses his job at the country club, he leaves their  Great Falls, Montana home for a few days to make a little money as a firefighter. There’s been a slow-fire burning in the wilds for such a long time even inexperienced men are welcome. Not unlike their marriage.

In the short time, Jerry is away, Jeanette gets involved with an older, more successful man, Warren Miller. The story is told from Joe’s point of view, so likely things with Miller don’t actually begin with her husband’s absence, but they certainly move forward while he’s gone. 



Carey Mulligan in Wildlife

Joe, who has been dragged by his parents from place to place, has no friends. His parents are his whole life, and stuck between his love for both his mother and his father and desperate, as kids are, to maintain the family unit, Joes tries to keep silent. When he understands that his mother is ‘stepping out on’ his father with this man he himself dislikes, he’s hurt, disappointed, angry but mute. All he wants is for things to go back to the way they were. 

It’s what happens when his father returns that make this slow-burning book such a dark and disturbing read. Things can never go back to the way they were, of course. They never do in real life, do they?

At a short 177 pages, Wildlife is haunting and filled with sadness. It’s not just the sixteen-year-old Joe who loses his innocence. Life, whether we like it or not, comes at us fast and furious just as it does to Joe and his parents and even to the successful Warren Miller. Things happen, out of the blue, the way they do. 

I happen to love the choices both Mulligan and Gyllenhaal make when picking projects; they tend to like serious, thought-provoking fare, grown-up dramas. I don’t know much about the young actor who plays Joe, an Australian teenager named Ed Oxenbould. In the book at least, a lot rides on his young shoulders. Bill Camp is Warren Miller, the unexpected love interest. Jeanette tells her son she knows he is not handsome, and we see that it’s his confidence and his powerful drive that attracts “Things do happen around him,’’ Jeanette says. “He has that feel.’’ Camp is a character actor you’ve likely seen in everything from The Killing of a Sacred Deer to The Night Of to Hostiles to Red Sparrow. Judging from the IMDB cast listing, the script has been fleshed out quite a bit. 

Have you read Richard Ford’s book? The film is screening at Cannes this week or next, after which I’m hoping for a release date. IMDB states Wildlife will be released in Russian on October 18th and in the UK on November 9th. I haven’t spotted a trailer yet so finger’s crossed we get that soon too.

In the meantime, here are director Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould chatting about the film this past January at Sundance.



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