I remember the first time I saw Little Miss Sunshine, I was particularly struck by Paul Dano. In a film full of such big characters, his seemingly small one was so moving. I’ve followed his career ever since, and now it’s gone behind the camera as he makes his directorial debut with Wildlife.

Set in the 1960’s (my favorite era), Wildlife follows the dissolution of a marriage (mom and dad played by Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal) as seen thru the eyes of their son Joe (Ed Oxenbould). What starts off as a strong nuclear family, falls apart as Jake’s Jerry loses his job and eventually leaves to be a fire fighter in the Montana wilderness. Mother Jeanette is left to her own devices to care for her teenage son and reclaim some semblance of her life.

I was into it at first. Again, I love the 60’s and there was great attention to detail of the era. The happy family was heartwarming to watch. Then the tension came. I still loved the scenes where the family was together, the way our leads played off each other and where the story went. Then Jake’s character went away, and Carey’s got more and more unlikable as it went on. It got so uncomfortable (again, this is all told from the teenage son’s perspective) that I almost couldn’t watch anymore. It was dull and depressing. It got back on track towards the end, but by then my mind had already wandered beyond return, thinking about the lunch I was planning to order from the nearby vegan restaurant I love.

Now, while I say that Carey’s character is unlikeable, that’s not a statement against her performance. If anything, it’s a statement for it. She was incredible, in what is possibly her best performance since An Education. So many levels and such intensity. I love how she’s an actress out of her time, like she was born in this time specifically to be in films about different eras.

I don’t know that this film was quite for me, but it was exquisitely put together. I’m at least happy to have seen Carey’s performance.

Wildlife – \m/ \m/ \n

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