Wild – Movie Review


Wild – Movie Review by Frank L.

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Writers: Nick Hornby, Cheryl Strayed (memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”)
Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Gaby Hoffmann

Cheryl Strayed wrote a book about walking alone along the Pacific Crest Trail which she undertook from the Mojave desert to the Washington Oregon border when her six year marriage had gone sour and her mother had died in her mid-forties rather rapidly of cancer. Cheryl was then in her mid twenties. The walk she undertook was about 1,100 miles and goes through deserts, craggy mountains, snow covered waste and magnificent forests. It is not to be attempted by wimps. Cheryl was a complete novice as regards hiking and living outdoors; she was not a novice as regards sexual experience. The walk is used to enable her to reflect on the highlights and lowlights of her life.

To be blunt not much happens of note on this walk which lasts over a period of several months. Maybe the book describes the instances which do happen with elan and flair but in the film they seem somewhat contrived and artificial even if they are, in contradiction, almost unremarkable. The flashbacks are never ending and are the meat of Wild, not the walk. Cheryl’s mother, Bobbi played by Laura Dern, is a touchy feely child of the sixties whose children Cheryl and Tom are the centre of her life. She is an optimistic spirit but you have to be told that she is Cheryl’s mother as Laura Dern is in her mid-forties and Witherspoon is a mere 38. The credits describe Witherspoon as one of the producers of Wild so the casting of Witherspoon as Cheryl may have had extraneous pressures. All the actors give fine performances but the overall effect is of a series of tableaux, each pleasant in themselves, which are given life by being remembered by Cheryl on her long walk.

Cheryl and the flashbacks are central to the film; the great trek itself is secondary. As walking alone over a deserted landscape is by definition a lonely activity nothing much does happen. Undoubtedly Witherspoon gives a fine performance as Cheryl to give verisimilitude to the incidents which do happen on the walk. But not even she can bridge the gap as a thirty eight year old actor which inevitably must arise when she tries to depict a twenty six year old. Given that the twenty six year old has many flashbacks to her earlier life the task becomes even more onerous. As Cheryl is central to the entire story this is a major flaw.


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