By Gary Murray
Starring Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Thomas Sadoski
Written by Nick Hornby and Cheryl Strayed
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee
Running time 115 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Matinee
‘Tis the season to get Oscar notice fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
December becomes the big push to get one of those little golden statues or at lease to be put on the short list for the Academy. There are only a few slots and a million jockeying for position. Reese Witherspoon is an actress who has gone from girl-next-door roles such as Sweet Home Alabama and Legally Blonde to more serious works such as Water for Elephants and Mud. Her latest to get consideration is Wild.
The story of Wild is the true life story of Cheryl Strayed and based on her book. Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) is a young woman in crisis. She has decided to walk the Pacific Crest Trail to clear her head. It is a 1,000 mile trek through the desert and the mountains, from California to Washington. Many people have tried to walk it and few have succeeded.
Cheryl is not a seasoned hiker who has been training for this mission but a total green-horn. She has recently been divorced but has a relationship with her husband Paul (Thomas Sadoski). One flashback scene shows the two getting matching tattoos to celebrate their uncoupling. Very matter of fact, Cheryl tells the tattoo artist that she cheated on Paul over and over again.
The film bounces back and forth, showing Cheryl as a young girl with her mother Bobbi (Laura Dern). Through these flashbacks, we find the entire history of Cheryl. Her father was abusive and her mother eventually left. We see Bobbi and Cheryl trying to better them selves by going to community college. These two are not so much mother and daughter as they are best friends.
Without giving away too much, a tragedy happens that drops Cheryl down the rabbit hole. To fill the void, she turns to drugs and anonymous sex. The role is a live wire one for Reese and she doesn’t shy away from exposing her body or her emotions.
As she walks the trail, she meets different travelers. Some are helpful and some seem to have agendas. It seems that everyone is on the trail for a different reason and the trail is a type of cleansing spirit.
Cheryl carries this giant backpack everyone on the trail calls the Beast. It is a metaphor of the baggage she carries on her soul. As her pack lightens, her inner burden lightens. She must learn to forgive herself and accept her past before she can go on with her life.
The film goes on and on, giving us little insights to Cheryl’s mind as she tries to put some purpose into her existence. The problem with the film is that there just isn’t that much to the film. There is a whole lot of walking added on to a whole lot more walking. It is introspective and introspection doesn’t film that well.
Easily, Wild is the best performance of Reese Witherspoon’s career and should put her on the short list for Best Actress Oscar. This is the kind of role that the voters accept. Basically, for most of the film she is playing against the elements as she confronts her inner demos. It is difficult tasks to attempt much less succeed at.
Wild is a decent film with a great performance in the lead role. While she may not win that little golden statue, she surely should be nominated.