A friend sent me a text the other day about a movie he had recently seen: Wild
Tales. His description was that it was “six vignettes on modern life and its frustrations.” He later texted that he had been careful with choosing his words and with not wanting to be a spoiler but that “violence and vengeance” better captured the gist of the vignettes than “modern frustrations.” He also stated that he was going to go see it a second time the following weekend.
He was right in amending his description and in his decision to go see it a second time.
For it is a worthwhile film.
Written and directed by the young Argentinian filmmaker Damien Szifron and produced by the Almodovar brothers, Wild Tales is just that: Six wild stories about modern life pushed to the extreme. An unhappy man takes vengeance on all the people in his past; a waitress is confronted with a customer who had ruined her father’s life; two men are caught up in road-rage gone to the extreme; an engineer fights against a DMV system that seems to indiscriminately tow cars; a wealthy man must deal with a world of bribery and corruption; and a wedding reception goes wonderfully wrong.
To give more detail would indeed be “spoiling” it, for much of the fun comes from the twists these tales take–twists that we probably saw coming, but that leave us incredulous that they did.
In each of these stories, there is frustration and violence and suppressed anger that we all can understand, and because of that, because of their vague familiarity, they become amusing. These tales are cartoonish episodes that seem all too real, and in our recognition of them we also find something that is both wince-evincing and laugh-inducing.
Of course, some of the narratives are better than others. One or two is a “one-liner”–a joke that is elaborately set up and then smacks us with the “aha” (or better yet the “oh no”) moment. And others are quite elaborate. But they all succeed. They all pull us in with their story–unique yet familiar. The frustrations of modern life tempered by dreams of vengeance.
And if for nothing else, Wild Tales leaves us with one of the most memorable wedding receptions in film history.
Here’s the trailer for your enjoyment: