Starring Reese Witherspoon, Thomas Sandoski, Laura Dern,
If Matthew McConaughey can turn a career around after not being taken seriously in his early work, surely Witherspoon can do the same with one Oscar already in her pocket. With a career built on pop culture, rom-coms and a rocky off-camera life, Witherspoon is one of the actors most people argue did not deserve that best actress Oscar award for Walk the Line. All that is about to change, because there is no better proof of deserved ownership than to land yourself back in the nomination seat. Wild is the third positive film association Witherspoon has had in 2014, starting with a supporting role in The Good Lie and her producing credit on Gone Girl. Witherspoon, also a producer of Wild, allows critically acclaimed director Jean Marc Vallee (The Dallas Buyers Club) to push her way out of her comfort zone into the best performance of her career.
Her backpack is nicknamed “monster” by those who see it because it is huge and she is one of few females on the Pacific Crest Trail. Furthermore, she isn’t experienced or trained against the elements of the wild. Yet, for Cheryl Strayed (Witherspoon), this 1,100 mile hike is a do-it-or-die situation. She has lost a lot, ruined what little she had left, and cornered herself into a life of drug abuse, sexual addiction, and fallen so far from “the woman my mother raised me to be.” Despite the elements, the wild animals, the difficult paths, being a rare female out alone on the trail, and her understanding that this journey might kill her, she confides to a fellow hiker that her life back in Minneapolis was lonelier than being in the wild.
Wild is the third positive film association Witherspoon has had in 2014.
The film opens with a brutal scene, which is an indication that this will not be your typical Witherspoon film; this is gritty Dallas Buyers Club territory. Vallee successfully uses the art of flashback to deepen the meaning and importance of Cheryl’s journey. Laura Dern plays her mother, the kind, overly positive figure that would be disturbed to see what her little girl has become. Tortured and haunted by her mother’s presence on the trail, Cheryl sees glimmers of her in the forest, by the lake, or in the animals.
Witherspoon pitches a tent, starts a fire and more than bares her soul, all for the first time on screen, and since Vallee doesn’t practice or rehearse beforehand, the frustration in her face isn’t pretend.
The script, based on the book by Cheryl Strayed, is a lot funnier than you might imagine; it’s the same type of ironic comedy Danny Boyle used in 127 Hours. There is a hilarious scene at a stopping place where a more experienced guide sifts through Cheryl’s “monster”, helping her lighten the load. Another time, an unusual man stops to interview her for the “Hobo Newspaper.” “Is that really a thing?” she asks, before attempting to explain that she is a hiker, not a hobo. Wild is a serious film in that it’s about a human journey of forgiving yourself for what you have become, what you have done to other people, and proving that every mistake has a purpose if it leads you to a better place.
an emotional and spiritual journey providing Witherspoon the opportunity to prove her dedication as an actor.