It’s only a minor shame that at some point in this movie Reese Witherspoon (as Cheryl Strayed, upon whose slice of life this movie is based), didn’t don a pair of sunglasses, look directly at the camera and say, “Wiiiiild!”
Wild begins in medias res, with Cheryl experiencing the pain and anguish that will inevitably accompany a 3-month long hike along the Pacific Crest Trail–from Mexico to Canada–with the nail on her big toe popping off. It’s a squeamish moment if you hate things like that, and I do. From there, the structure of the movie varies between taking us back to the beginning, back to the start of the hike, through her memories, through her thoughts and fears, always grounded with her progression along her journey.
The movie and the book it’s based upon are about using nature and a sort of self-prescribed physical torture in order for Cheryl to reassess her life after a series of calamities befell her which led to bad decisions which finally led to a life out of balance and on the verge of collapse. The cleansing power of nature and the deafening isolation she’s put herself into allow her to pinpoint on where it all went wrong and how to get everything back on track. But, as a woman by herself on a trail, it’s not as easy as, “Oh! I get it now!” She must also battle the snow, fallen toenails, potential rapists and rattlesnakes.
Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) directs, with Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) adapting the screenplay. Wild is one of those refreshingly simple, good movies. It’s not a movie that requires three viewings to finally understand the central theme, or to grasp precisely what the director wants to say. It’s just a good, solid movie that treats the main character sensitively and also watches nature with widened, awe-struck eyes. It may not be mandatory theater material, but this is an ideal, perfect movie to watch on a Sunday afternoon.
Reese Witherspoon gives one of her best performances in this movie. In a role that asks a lot, to go from so many ranges of emotion, she really does make it seem effortless, but we all know it’s not quite that easy. To make it appear so natural for her is the real charm and she disappears into the movie and lets the character come front and center.
Wild is the kind of movie that should invigorate your passion for adventure. It has a lot of love for the Pacific Crest Trail and the sights to see along the way. The trek is lovingly painted, sometimes with harsher colors, and the trek is feasiblely portrayed as an event powerful enough for someone to use to figure out what fuck-ups happened in their life with some accuracy.
One other minor gripe: Reese Witherspoon is a goddamn spoon biter, and she eats a lot in this movie. Just get ready to hear a lot of tooth-on-metal action going on during the beginning.