Review by Camden Ferrell
As a director, Bill Pohlad is most known for 2014’s Love & Mercy, a fantastic look at the creative process and life of Brian Wilson. His newest movie after several years, Dreamin’ Wild, follows lesser-known musicians. Thanks to some confident lead performances, this biopic overcomes some of its lulls and shortcomings while hopefully bringing more attention to Donnie and Joe Emerson.
Donnie and Joe are brothers from a blue-collar family who grew up making music together. Time has passed, and they’ve both lived different lives. However, their old music is being rediscovered many years later, and they are given a chance to perform once again together. This new cult following inspires the resurgence of memories and decisions that haunt them as they try and make the most of their second chance.
Written by Pohlad, he once again employs a non-linear narrative structure, and it works relatively well in this movie. He does a decent job at shaking up the biopic formula and framing flashback sequences in new ways. It’s interesting how both future and past intertwine well in a way that conveys how previous actions haunt our characters in present time. While the structure is admittedly enjoyable, the dialogue doesn’t always work well and might be too straightforward for the themes of guilt and family it’s trying to express.
The most enjoyable part of this movie comes from is reserved but strong performances. Casey Affleck and Walton Goggins lead the film as the adult Donnie and Joe, respectively. Affleck employs his reliable subtlety that adds a very nuanced layer to Donnie, and this really helps audiences empathize with the struggle he has with his past. Goggins plays well off Affleck and while he’s not given nearly as much material to work with, he fits snugly in with the rest of the ensemble. Noah Jupe and Jack Dylan Grazer give decent yet less memorable performances as the teenager version of our leads.
While Pohlad’s last movie plays into the insanity of Brian Wilson’s genius, this movie is a lot more meditative and intimate in scope. This works well on an emotional level but doesn’t always provide for the most entertaining story at times. He has the occasional problem with maintaining momentum in this movie because of its nature. However, the musical scenes are all fun to watch. It’s a conventional execution of non-conventional musicians, and it works more than it doesn’t.
Donnie and Joe Emerson may not be household names, but Dreamin’ Wild is a solid way for more people to learn about them. Affleck is a great lead, and the narrative structure was a nice change of pace from the typical musical biopic formula. Pohlad can’t quite capture the magic of his last movie, but he still capitalizes on some emotional payoffs that audiences will really enjoy in this movie.
Dreamin’ Wild is in theaters August 4.