Director: Paul Dano | 104 minutes | drama | Actors: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould, Travis W Bruyer, Zoe Margaret Colletti, Tom Huston Orr, Bill Camp, Darryl Cox, Ginger Gilmartin, Michael Gibbons
The early 1960s were the years of the universal American dream: family happiness with the husband as the breadwinner and the wife behind the stove of a detached house located on the spot where work was found. In the case of Wildlife, that is the state of Montana, where Jerry (Gyllenhaal) has a job on a golf course. And loses, and disappears to regain his manhood elsewhere. Jerry is the largely absent protagonist; Wildlife is mainly the story of 14-year-old Joe (Oxenbould) and his mother Jean (Mulligan), an enterprising woman who manages to make ends meet after hubby’s departure, but slowly fragments in the sequel.
As Hopper’s staged image of the time, “Wildlife” is already enough to be enjoyed, but mother’s emancipatory collapse is the most pressing. The woman behind the stove initially thrives as a swimming instructor, but moves in private on a cynical love path, with her son as a chaperone. Jerry’s hard-earned Cadillac is still there, but used for loveless sex with a rich old man (Camp) who also knows better. “Do you know anything better?” Mother says to son, the only confidant in her life. Joe doesn’t know either. The blue teenager is more responsible than his parents, and is not yet ready to handle that responsibility.
Plot-technically not much new; “Wildlife” knows how to surprise with skill. Love is cold, but there is nothing better, the debuting Dano shows through the excellent Mulligan. She has harvest years ahead of her in roles like this. When Jerry finally returns, we first see a Greyhound stop where no one gets off, then we see Joe run to a taxi and hug his father. Joe has to face all the arguments that follow, and Gyllenhaal is unwillingly overplayed by Mulligan. Jean has lost her respect for Jerry and goes her own way. As selfish as Jerry who lost his self-esteem and went his own way.