Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Gaby Hoffmann, Thomas Sadoski, Keene McRae
Directed By: Jean-Marc Vallée
Written By: Nick Hornby
Rating: R (US) Running Time: 2 hr 14 min
From watching the trailer, you’d be forgiven for assuming Wild was going to be a shallow film about self discovery and healing. That a death in the family, drug use, promiscuity and a failed marriage can all be fixed with a quick trip to REI, and a very long walk with mother nature. Only in a movie is life that simple and easily fixed. Wild however, was anything but shallow, and turned out to be one of the best movie going experiences I’ve had this year.
Based on Cheryl Strayed’s book*, Wild perfectly blends the central character’s journey to recovery on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), with flashbacks of the events that motivated the 1000 mile hike. Linking key difficulties on the trail with moments in her past. These superbly edited moments, placed at just the right frequency during the film do a great job of explaining why Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) is taking this journey, and why it’s important. We learn about the tragic family event that put her on a self-destructive course. And the film doesn’t hold back on the gruesome details, further highlighting what a powerful and brave performance this was from Reese Witherspoon.
Wild also provides us with a beautiful supporting performance from Laura Dern, as Cheryl’s mother, Bobbi. A teacher to her kids, and a student in life, Bobbi escapes a violent relationship, but refuses to be bitter. She only looks forward, and chooses to focus on the silver lining. This isn’t blind stupid optimism in the face of the bleak reality of their lives. It’s based on faith born from the love she shares with her children, and as Cheryl enjoys her isolation on the trail, her mother’s lessons finally sink in.
This movie could easily have been trite and overly simplistic. But director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) and writer, Nick Hornby (An Education) really explore this central character and her journey to recovery. They deliver a superb story about rejecting regret. About realizing mistakes make us just as much as our successes. And through great performances from Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, do so in a credible, even poetic way.
* Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
For fans of Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, Wild is a must see. The movie earns its R rating through its sexual content, nudity, and depictions of drug abuse and violence.
Despite being shot mostly on the trail, I was surprised there wasn’t more made photographically of the gorgeous California landscape. It’s still a decent looking film however, and a matinée screening or HD viewing at home on your TV will service this film well.
The movie also manages to inject some great moments of humor. As seen when Cheryl is trying to hitch a ride, and a guy pulls over to interview her for the ‘Hobo Times.’ As she argues that term, she’s reminded that she is in fact, homeless, and is in fact, unemployed!