Paul Dano makes his directorial debut with Wildlife, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan. The two play Jerry and Jeanette Brinson, a couple in 1960s Montana whose marriage is falling apart all around them and right in front of their son Joe (Ed Oxenbould).
That dissolution is coming from the fact that Jerry has lost his job and abandoned the family while Jeanette is left behind with Joe. The story, co-written by Zoe Kazan, is a simple one but contains all the powerful elements of a relationship flaming out in dramatic fashion.
(Ed. note: Yes, once again I got release dates wrong as this opened in limited areas last week. Let’s just move on.)
The movie’s poster is simple, showing Jeanette and Jerry looking at each other from opposite chairs, looking vaguely dissatisfied with the other. That photo is crowded by not only the icons of the festivals the movie has appeared at but also a number of positive quotes from early reviews.
Jerry is going through a rough patch, we see in the trailer, as Jeanette tries everything she can to both support him and explain his moody and erratic behavior to their son and others. Their son Joe observes all of this, upset by what’s going on but unable to really do anything about it. We see scenes of the family dynamic in various iterations and get a sense of Jeanette’s loneliness and isolation.
The visuals are enough to really hit you where it hurts, particularly all the emotions on display in Mulligan’s performance. We don’t see a lot of Gyllenhaal, but that seems to be the point. Throughout the trailer the audience is shown quotes from critics praising the movie to reinforce the idea that this one is worth seeking out.
The second trailer, released in early September, features much more dialogue and explanation of the story, showing how Jerry is reeling from a recent setback, dealing with it by having his own version of a midlife crisis. Jeanette tries to reassure Joe that everything is going to be alright while at the same time explaining to him the world isn’t as cut and dried as he’d like it to be.
A 60-second trailer from late September hit roughly the same story points, just in more condensed form.
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There’s just the basic information found on IFC’s page for the movie, including the trailer, a synopsis and the poster.
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With a great cast and Dano in the director’s chair, along with quality source material, it was almost immediately one of those people were most excited to see when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. The cast and crew spoke frequently about the film, with Dano and Williams talking about working together after being friends for years and Kazan and Dano talking about the collaboration they undertook as real life romantic and now screenwriting partners. It was a couple weeks after the festival ended when the movie sold to IFC Films.
It was later announced as one that would screen in a sidebar series at the Cannes Film Festival, where Dano spoke more about taking on directorial duties for the first time and what it was like working with Kazan. Around that time Mulligan was interviewed about why she signed on for the movie and also answered questions about #MeToo and other industry issues.
The movie was announced as one of those screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. It also made the list for the New York Film Festival and the Chicago Film Festival. The movie was added to the lineup of the Austin Film Festival.
The two leads were interviewed together about working with Dano and each other to create the nostalgic tone of the story.
The focus has been placed on two pairings: Dano/Kazan and Gyllenhaal/Mulligan. Those pairings have given the press – and the studio – some clear hooks on which to hang their stories about the movie. That’s good since, while the movie does look affecting and dramatic, it’s also lacking a strong hook in and of itself. So we’ve heard plenty about Dano taking up directorial duties, both from him and some mix of Kazan, Gyllenhaal and Mulligan, providing the the strongest appeal for discerning audiences to turn out to theaters.