Cary Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal Set the Screen Ablaze in “Wildlife”

Written by | Entertainment, Screen

Mulligan and Gyllenhaal

Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this meditative tale of a teenage boy witnessing his parents’ turbulent struggles with each other and themselves in 1960s small-town Montana. After losing his job, Jerry (Gyllenhaal) has an identity crisis of sorts and leaves town to join the low-paid firefighters battling an uncontrolled forest blaze. Jeanette (Mulligan) strenuously protests, but after Jerry leaves anyway, she attempts to find independence (although at times reluctantly) in the arms of another more successful man (Bill Camp – Midnight Special, The Looming Tower), which is not surprisingly problematic for Jerry. Throughout all of this quietly observed familial drama, son Joe (Ed Oxenbould – The Visit) peers on with an innocent, boyish face that seems like a possible stand-in for the director’s own (Paul Dano – There Will Be Blood, Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks). Dano, who co-wrote the film with Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks, The Big Sick), does a decent job with his first directorial effort. The film’s look and overall production values are strong, though the story is a bit thin (or perhaps overly reliant on a layer of subtext that may not be substantial enough). Its message would seem to be that people are imperfect — even your parents — and at some point you will learn this and grow from it, but the film perhaps displays this too directly and with too few other themes. Gyllenhaal’s performance as a dispossessed man of the 40s/50s is good, but Mulligan (who gets more screen time) fully displays her dynamic dramatic abilities, which provide the film’s primary turning points. THE WORD: Possibly, as an actor-turned-director, Dano gives too much time to subtleties and not enough to storytelling. COMING TO: Theaters

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Last modified: December 20, 2018