Wild Movie Review
As Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) inventories her massive traveling pack in a cheap motel, we get the sense that she is biting off more than she can chew. When Cheryl goes to put it on her back, she’s like a helpless turtle unable to stand or even flip over from the sheer weight and size on the back of her tiny body. For reasons that are slowly revealed through flashbacks, Cheryl is determined to make a 1100-mile hike across the Pacific Crest Trail. Her poor decisions and tumultuous past with her family and ex-husband are her motivation to recovery by pushing herself beyond limits and getting back on the right path.
WILD is based on Cheryl Strayed’s popular memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.” While the personal experience might be more effective in her words, on screen, WILD fails to connect. It’s tough to properly value WILD on its own merit when one of my favorite films from 2007, INTO THE WILD, walked a similar path in a far more compelling and personal manner. One major problem is the lack of danger that is felt through this troubled life and journey. While logically we understand our heroine is all alone without food and water, the feeling of immediate harm is never prevalent. Nature is full of difficulties that the film seems to casually slide by, while uncomfortably lingering on every male encounter as a potential rapist.
Director Jean-Marc Vallee had a surprise hit in last year’s DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, which earned him an Oscar nomination and a couple of wins for the actors Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. While the movie was good, the strength relied on the story and actors rather than the directing. WILD is in the same boat but I think is actually hindered by the directing choices. The highlight of the film is Reese Witherspoon who portrays Cheryl Strayed admirably with brave dedication. Unfortunately, the direction and editing doesn’t back the fine acting with effective story telling. The flashbacks involving Cheryl’s mother Bobbi (Laura Dern giving a strong performance) and Cheryl’s descent into unhealthy addictions are uneven and messy. I found myself waiting to get back to the hike where Vallee manages to capture some gorgeous scenery. However, once on the hike, I found myself searching for anything interesting to happen.
A woman’s 1,100-mile hike across the country is a topic and adventure any outdoorsy person would find exhilarating. Surviving off of nature using the bare essentials while seeing beautiful landscape is a personal dream of mine that I have on a regular basis from the comfort and safety of my warm soft bed. My point is, I think anyone’s personal journey can be interesting if told properly. This particular soul-searching adventure to redemption could have been more engaging but doesn’t offer anything fresh or exciting. Those who are a fan of the book, might be able to pull more out of the film as they are able to relish on the character’s written words, which I found to be incoherently preachy. Perhaps I was too distracted at how such a fair skinned person made it so long without a hat and sunglasses.