Nutshell: I’d give Wild a B+. Witherspoon’s performance isn’t just good, it makes you feel like you’re in her character’s skin, living it. Director Jean-Marc Vallée blends timelines into an focused fever dream, nailing Strayed’s emotions. A hiccup or two in exposition, but all-in-all a fascinating film.
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Movie Review: Wild
Twitview: fascinating look at one woman’s fall and redemption. Witherspoon is a wonder. B+
Fluffy foxes. Heroin. Toenails. Quickies on a dumpster. Corn mush and Snapple. Wild is a glorious, fascinating mess of a story, detailing a woman’s quest to right her glorious, fascinating, messy life. Taken from Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail , Wild is a look at how completely a devastating life event can destroy you, and how picking yourself back up is a matter of sheer will and determination that can give you back yourself. A good pair of Danner hikers thrown into the mix doesn’t hurt.
Cheryl Strayed’s life began a downward spiral after her mother’s sudden death from cancer at 45 (spinal in the film, lung IRL). Strayed began “experimenting” with heroin and schtupping every guy she came across in an attempt to ease the pain of loss, which caused the death of her marriage. After all that loss, she tries to pick herself back up by trying to become the woman her mother believed her to be…and she begins getting herself back on that track by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. As someone who’s never, ever hiked before. Ever. Spoiler alert: she succeeds.
Wild’s crazy blend of voice-over inner monologue, classic rock and timeline slight-of-hand works perfectly, and gets viewers into the heart of Strayed’s torment and her redemption. Vallée uses the same seamless editing style that made Dallas Buyers Club so gripping, and Wild is just as captivating. Though this is no 127 Hours, it’s Strayed’s story, and while there are others on-screen, they’re definitely the backing band here. That said, performances by Laura Dern (as momma Bobbi), Newsroom’s Thomas Sadoski (as ex-hubby Paul) and Gaby Hoffmann (as BFF Aimee) stand out. Witherspoon has already been tapped for a Golden Globe, and I’m sure an Oscar nod will be in her future.
But the real tip-of-the-hat goes to Nick Hornsby, who took Strayed’s memoir and turned it into a story that translates perfectly onscreen. Shocked he wasn’t tapped for a Best Screenplay ‘Globe. Because even with the tiny hiccups here and there, gotta say I was riveted for 99.9% of the film.
There were a few spots where the stream-of-consciousness caused a “wait — what” moment (was she pregnant at her low point? What happened?) But otherwise Wild is less a story than it is a look inside the mind of a woman trying to pull herself out of the pit, and what happened in her life that put her there. And though I’m too much of a wimp to hike the PCT, this film is a journey I’d take again.