Two brothers’ 30-year-old album becomes a hit. Conflict ensues

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Dreamin’ Wild
VOD Tuesday 19
3.5 out of 5

It’s a tale as old as time: a band on the verge of stardom falls apart because there’s a talent gap between one of the members and the rest of the group. From Almost Famous to Josie and the Pussycats, this has been the case.

Dreamin’ Wild uses the same starting point but lands somewhere completely different — and is better for it.

Based on real events, we’re introduced to the protagonist, Donnie Emerson (Casey Affleck) at a low ebb in his life. His recording studio in the Pacific Northwest is unsustainable and his musical career, practically an afterthought. Out of nowhere, an online journalist reaches out wanting to know more about a funk album he and his brother Joe (Walton Goggins, Justified) recorded as teenagers more than 30 years ago.

The belated interest opens pandora’s box for the Emerson family. No skeletons in the closet (literal or otherwise), just several tiny heartbreaks buried deep down. Donnie was the talented one and Joe was his Ringo. Their self-published LP cost their father (Beau Bridges) dearly and barely sold.

Nevertheless, Donnie was given a shot at becoming a recording artist, something we know didn’t work.

Faced with a new shot at the big time, Donnie goes from wary to control-freak. The main recipient of his tetchiness is Joe, who has been making his living as a farmer and seldom plays the drums anymore.

Unbeknownst to everyone, Donnie has a crippling fear of failure, and it manifests onstage.

Directed by Bill Polhad, who previously delivered the touching Brian Wilson biopic Love and Mercy, Dreamin’ Wild’s strongest asset is the cast: Casey Affleck delivers in characteristic understated fashion and Beau Bridges smoothly runs the father-figure gamut. Throw in Zooey Deschanel, Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place) and Chris Messina, and you have a murderer’s row of supporting talent.

The surprise is Walton Goggins: better known for his villainous turns in about everything (The Shield, Ant-Man and the Wasp, heck, Machete Kills), the actor is the film’s heart as a man aware of his limitations and happy with his life until the possibility of ‘more’ emerges. Imagine being ‘the brother of’, and being okay with it, and you get Goggins.

Polhad finds the pathos in all the main players and shows how they feed into each other. The conflict in Dreamin’ Wild stems from good yet flawed people trying to do the right thing in circumstances very few have encountered. It makes for compelling drama. It’s never not surprising to remember these are real artists that — beyond one or two dramatic licenses — actually went through this.

Audiences slept on Dreamin’ Wild when it opened (it never came close to cracking the box office top 10). Like its characters, it deserves another shot. ■