Title – Wild (2014)
Director – Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club)
Cast – Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Gaby Hoffmann, Kevin Rankin
Plot – Based on the true story of Cheryl Strayed (Witherspoon) who sets out on the arduous journey of walking the Pacific Crest Trail solo after she finds her quickly crumbling life is in need of a reboot after years of sadness and anger.
“What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have?”
Review by Eddie on 29/06/2015
It’s a movie that screams “Oscar” for its female lead and a film based around a redemptive true story but for all the good Wild does (which is largely in its use of its natural scenery) it never threatens to become something truly special that its very much like minded and similarly titled Into the Wild did back in 2007.
Directed by Dallas Buyers Club’s Jean-Marc Vallee, Wild is a step up in cinematic posturing from that solid drama in many aspects yet where Buyers Club found a soul in amongst all of the larger than life events Wild never hits high notes on its emotional payoffs due to a strange flashback structure, some unengaging inner monologues and sense we never really get to know Reese Witherspoon’s Cheryl Strayed despite the fact we’ve spent the time with her on her months long journey walking the Pacific Crest Trail. Blame for this lack of real emotionally punch falls largely on famed writer Nick Hornby’s script that doesn’t ring enough out of Cheryl’s troubled tales before her life affirming quest despite Witherspoon giving it her all in a deservedly noted turn as the troubled soul.
Clearly committed to the role it’s great to see Witherspoon invest her time into something noteworthy in front of the camera and she elevates Wild to a higher level thanks to her warts and all turn. It would’ve taken a huge toll on the actress both emotionally and physically in such a demanding turn and this is arguably Witherspoon’s finest moment, narrowly beating out her memorable performance from Walk the Line. However good Witherspoon is here it’s a travesty that the film’s most emotionally charged scenes are mostly ruined due to a decision to use Witherspoon as a young Sheryl. Believability is often entirely ruined when we flash back from a middle aged Cheryl walking the trail to her days as a student and no amount of makeup can hide the fact we are witnessing a 40 plus year old actress play dress ups as a teenager. It would’ve also had been nice to get more of a feel for Cheryl and her relationship with estranged ex-husband Paul played by Thomas Sadoski and also her time with the undeservedly Oscar nominated Laura Dern as her caring mother Bobbi but Vallee marks his intention often that the trail is where his focus is on.
With some great cinematography and a committed turn by the Oscar nominated Witherspoon, Wild is worthy of your time, yet one can’t help but feel deep down there was a more emotionally resonate drama to be explored in the tale of lost soul finding redemption out in the great wilds of the American landscape that makes Wild feel like somewhat of a missed opportunity when it had the story, the actress and the lands to make something truly special. As a film for all us anti-camping flag-wavers however, this could just become our quintessential showcase for our cause.
3 delicious oat’s dinners out of 5