DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews
 
WILDLIFE (director/writer: Paul Dano; screenwriters: novel by Richard Ford/Zoe Kazan; cinematographer: Diego Garcia; editors: Matt Hannam, Louise Ford.; music: David Lang; cast: Carey Mulligan (Jeanette Brinson),  Jake Gyllenhaal  (Jerry Brinson), Bill Camp (Warren Miller),  Ed Oxenbould (Joe Brinson),  Zoe Margaret Colletti (Ruth Ann), Darryl Cox (Clarence Snow); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Alex Saks, Paul Dano, Oren Moverman, Ann Ruark, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker; IFC Films; 2018)

"It's a fine dramatic production, with many outstanding performances."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The directorial debut of the actor Paul Dano is an auspicious one. The 1960 period family drama tells of postwar life in Montana. It's based on the novel by Richard Ford and is sharply co-written by Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan.

The sensitive 16-year-old Joe (
Ed Oxenbould) and his parents: the young housewife Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and the over-friendly screw-up golf pro Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal) have relocated in the 1960s to the small town of Great Falls in Montana, where they live in the suburbs. They live from paycheck to paycheck. When unemployed after losing his golf job, the disillusioned and resentful dad leaves home to accept a low-paying job fighting wildfires in the hills by the Canadian border. The separation destroys the marriage and brings on a consuming depression in Jeanette, leaving Joe no choice but to rush into adulthood and be the main confidante to mom.

To survive the bad times Jeanette gets work
as a swimming instructor at the YMCA. There she meets the much older, obese and wealthy car dealership owner Warren Miller (Bill Camp). The relationship has Joe, mostly a passive observer, confused and unable to clearly reflect on it verbally, as his feelings represent the film's POV. While attending school Joe works part-time assisting a portrait painter, which gives us the chance to observe other aspiring families in town trying to find a way to pull themselves up and connect with the elusive American Dream they were led to believe is the country's credo.

It's a fine dramatic production, with many outstanding performance. Though there are many comical moments, this is a sad movie about the damaged lives of a nuclear family we can still root for despite their flaws. Each is searching to find what is missing in their lives, as we look at them as if they were paintings seen in a museum. It probably works better as prose, nevertheless it's an accomplished film worth seeing.

REVIEWED ON 9/7/2018       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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