Friday, January 2, 2015

Wild

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Gaby Hoffman
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Rating: R


I didn't expect to be bawling at the end of this film. I left the theatre shielding my face, so that no one could see the tears pouring down my cheeks. I haven't cried in a film since "Titanic" or "A Walk to Remember," but this one struck a cord in me. It knocked me backwards. Reese Witherspoon's fearless portrayal of Cheryl Strayed gave me such a deeper admiration for her as an actor. Perhaps I was so emotional over this movie because like Cheryl, I have a very close relationship with my mom. She's my BFF. Seeing the incredible journey Cheryl took to cope with her mother's death was something I was not prepared for.

Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed
Photo Courtesy Variety
Cheryl Strayed, circa 1995
Photo Courtesy Philareview
This film is based off Strayed's memoir "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail." Though the memoir was published in 2012, the hike occurred in 1995, when she was 26 years young. We're with Strayed during her 1,100 mile trek through California, Oregon and Washington, but we also get to know her through flashbacks. This is where we're introduced to her selfless and optimistic mother (Laura Dern) who taught her to "always do the kindest thing," and her scorned ex-husband (Thomas Sadoski), whom she cheated on a few times over. It was fabulous to see Gaby Hoffman (what's up "Now and Then"!), albeit just for a scene or two.

Strayed's mother's death caused her to spiral into self-destructive behavior - unprotected sex with strangers, a flirtation with heroin - until a pregnancy scare snaps her back to reality and is ultimately the catalyst for her trek. Witherspoon brings such a truth to this role. She's terrified of what lies ahead of her - both on the hike and off. Her "F-it" attitude is pretty inspiring too. Walk into a branch and scratch your face up? F it. Lose a boot? F it. Lose a toenail? F it. And she's stunningly beautiful the entire time.

Though a lot of the dialogue is in flashbacks, or Strayed dropping repeated F bombs while she fidgets with her gear, we get a lot of stream of consciousness that I imagine echoed the book. Fellow hikers provide companionship, locals offer their home as a night away from the elements, and most creepy of all, hunters who have loving on their mind give her (and the audience) the heebie jeebies. A close call with a rattlesnake made me question where all the other wildlife was. She got lucky that losing a toenail and not a limb (as a snack) was all!

Did this movie inspire me to hike the Pacific Crest Trail? No. Did it make me want to challenge myself in a more indoorsy way? Yes. It's a fantastic reminder that everyone's got something, and that you can survive the unimaginable. Cherish the time you have with your loved ones. It's never too late to turn things around - to forgive others and to forgive yourself. Seriously be ready to cry like a little girl at the end of this film.


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