Reese Witherspoon treks her way into viewers’ hearts in ‘Wild’

I’m not going to lie. The first reason, the one that sparked my interest in watching Wild was the potential I saw in it to remind me of another movie I hold dear to my heart called Into The Wild, but I was pleasantly surprised by the film. It managed to hold its own, and to compare the two would be a pointless affair, so I’ll try my best not to do so.
Wild, is the true story (lots of those in Hollywood lately, no?) of Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon), a woman who — following the death of her mother (Laura Dern) and her divorce from husband Paul (Thomas Sadoski) — decides to go on a one thousand mile exceeding hike of the Pacific Crest Trail alone as a form of therapy, a form of healing from everything she had gone through up until that point. Wild depicts the psychological and spiritual journey of Strayed.

In what is doubtedly her most captivating performance since her work in Walk The Line, which earned her an Oscar win for Best Actress, Reese Witherspoon transforms herself physically and mentally for her role as Cheryl Strayed, delivering a praise-worthy performance that is one of the best in her career. She conveys Strayed in all her colours: the bright and the dark, and manages to convey the deep sorrow within her as she loses the pillar that centered her life. I especially loved the fact that Strayed was portrayed in her low points and high points, unlike some recent biopics, making for a realistic and relatable character that Witherspoon plays well with. Her gut-wrenching yearning for her mother quite palpable, and one we’ve all had towards lives we have lost — whether mothers or otherwise — she makes her comeback with this great addition to her repertoire. Moreover, this comes as no surprise, seeing as the last film Director Jean-Marc Vallée made earned its co-stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto golden statues for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. 

Having watched the Golden Globes and having heard the Academy Award nominations for this year, I was expecting a spectacle of a performance from Laura Dern as the supportive and lovable mother, and while I did think that Dern did the extremely likable character justice, I think Hollywood should calm its tits. For one thing, Dern is rarely actually in Wild. And most of the scenes featuring her don’t involve her talking. She is a bystanding character for the most part, in fact. And like I said, for what it’s worth, she did a great job in the scenes she was in, but not one worth all this hype. Then again, it’s not like Arquette has much competition. It wasn’t a good year for women in supporting roles, but I digress.

A good adaptation of Strayed’s novel, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Wild does well to both entertain and provoke. I appreciated the feminist interjections the movie tried to include. And, in a sense, this is a story about the prowess of this woman, both physical and emotional, but sometimes those interjections were just shoved in there. It felt too forced.

A part of me was hoping I’d get more inspired about this movie and with this woman’s spirit. She went through a lot to get to the end, but the emotional struggle far exceeded the physical one. I would have loved to see more of the physical effect of the hike on her. It felt too pampered at times. This being called “Wild,” I was expecting some more well…wild. The ruthlessness of nature could have been stressed on a bit more.

Overall, Wild is an emotionally-draining, powerfully-acted — now with nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress —  movie that celebrates the strength of the human spirit. It has its flaws, sure, and it wasn’t the best movie, but it was a fair effort, one worth a watch.

RATING: 76/100

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Reel Rambler

A review of movies - old, new, local, and foreign - as seen through the eyes of a 22 year-old based in Beirut.

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