I am actually a fan of the film itself, whereas many seem to enjoy Ladd's histrionics but not the film. Wild at Heart, I would go so far to say, is David Lynch's most hated film. It really does bring out the anger in people. I love it. If I were Jewish I'd say it has chutzpah, but I'm not so I'll simply say it has balls bigger than Texas to do what it does. It sure does have a visceral impact. Turning The Wizard of Oz into a sick road trip fantasy erotic horror soap opera? Getting Diane Ladd to cover her face and hands in bright red lipstick while extolling southern gothic Dynasty-esque words and wearing colossal reinventions of trendy outfits? Sherilynn Fenn giving one of the greatest cameo performances ever? It's insane and it's bizarre but I can't not love it. Even the bit where Willem Dafoe... well, if you've seen Wild at Heart you know the moment where things really go off with a bang (omg I'm so freakin' funny!)
Obviously it's not a movie for everyone, just like all Lynch films. It's not even a movie for Lynch fans in a lot of ways. But whenever I think of Ladd's performance, or that of her off and on screen daughter Laura Dern I can't help but think they are two of the most masterful performances of the 1990s. Add that to everything else about the film and Wild at Heart is actually one of my favourite David Lynch films. The movie received wild cheers and jeers (famously by Roger Ebert) upon winning the Palm d'Or at Cannes in 1990, probably more a testament to Lynch himself and not the film considering his followup Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, which has equally maddening violence and over-the-top insanities, was famously booed nearly out of the competition.
Below is a clip from Wild at Heart. The scene is, most likely, the movie's most famous and one in which Ladd's performance really reaches for the higher stratosphere. Her whispering voice in joint force with the... the... unique design of herself just makes it stand out. There's another of Ladd's moments that I could watch over and over and it's the "Buffalo huntin'? What the fuck does that mean" scene. "The fucker split!" Lynch does so many crazy things with the sound design and Ladd's performance up to 100. Yikes.
It still surprises and delights me to this very day that Ladd received an Academy Award nomination for this performance when the role is so bonkers and the movie had nothing else going for it in terms of awards (however unfortunate that may be). If you don't own Wild at Heart on DVD (I do! Special Edition!) then just watch this scene over and over again with the volume blaring and you'll get the idea pretty darn quick. Even down to the final moments when the munshkin costume makes a cameo! Bloody brilliant!