I really do love Paul Dano.
Since I first saw him in Little Miss Sunshine and Ruby Sparks, he has been consistently in some of my favorite and highest rated movies. He doesn’t seem to phone it in, he gives it his all, and I love him every time. And sorry, I didn’t notice him earlier with There Will Be Blood, as I was too distracted by Daniel Day-Lewis.
This film, Wildlife, however does not star Dano. Instead, it was directed by Dano, his first feature film, and also partially written by him. He had help in that it was based on a book, and the screenplay was also written by his Ruby Sparks costar, Zoe Kazan.
An actor’s first directorial film can have a big impact on the future of their career. Who knows, maybe they direct better than they act. Maybe their direction sucks and they will just go back to acting only. There can be a lot writing on the line for him, and he is still in his early 30’s at the time of doing this film. Good luck Dano, and whatever happens, please don’t stop acting.
Shit, we’re missing one of the stars in this picture. We have an actor loose on the set!
Joe Brinson (Ed Oxenbould) is just a boy, living with his parents, trying to get his world view on. Set in 1960, we don’t even have that JFK inspiring moon speech yet, just a lot of deaths in Vietnam and economic booms. Booms for everyone but the Brinsons, that is. The dad (Jake Gyllenhaal) has been moving his family around for awhile now, due to changing jobs. And when he gets fired, he doesn’t want to take his old job back again, because of pride or some silly nonsense. This does not please the mom (Carey Mulligan), who wants to make sure their family is safe and content enough to get what they need, even if they are not rich.
So what does the dad do? Well, there are some wildfires out there in Montana, so he takes a job to help put them out. Hours away from his home and family, in a dangerous position, for less money. And then he is gone.
So now Joe has to live with his mom who is slowly unraveling over these series of events, feeling a lack of love and like she has no say in the world. Joe doesn’t want his parents to fight, but it seems that he is just a passive beast in his own life. Can there be reconciliation? Well, Bill Camp plays a richer older man, so let that answer part of the question for you.
Ah yes, look at all that family bonding.
For those who are easily distracted, Wildlife may be a harder film to get through, especially the first half. It is a drama by nature and by execution. We have a small cast, a majority of this film is just Oxenbould and Mulligan. Doing what? Well, existing.
I will say it picked up in the second half a lot, when Gyllenhaal’s character did leave. Not a slight against him or anything, because he did act quite well like his usual self, they just didn’t have a lot of the more intense scenes until after it occurred.
In terms of acting, the only reason Gyllenhaal won’t be talked about much is due to the limited nature of his character. Mulligan is a force in this film though, carrying so much on her face and in her sarcasm. She is the main reason people will be talking about this film in the future, and surely will be nominated.
Oxenbould was okay, but felt like a passive vessel for most of the film. The viewer was Oxenbould, powerless to effect what was unfolding on the screen.
Overall, I might forget about Wildlife within a year or so, but it is a smaller film that is full of acting talent and is a great stepping stone for Dano’s career.
3 out of 4.