14 January 2015 | TheSquiss
#Reese Witherspoon stripped bare & exposed on a journey to find a reason to live
When Cheryl Strayed's (Reese Witherspoon) life has a good go at crashing and burning, largely due to her own poor decisions, she packs a rucksack and takes a 1,000 mile walk along the Pacific Crest Trail to, as she puts it, "find out how to become the girl my mother loved." Alone and woefully ill prepared for the trek, both physically and emotionally, hers is a journey through an unforgiving landscape of discovery, pain and hope.
Adapted by Nick Hornby from Cheryl Strayed's own biographical account of her journey, Wild: From Lost to Found On the Pacific Crest Trail, and directed my Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club), Wild is the darker sibling of 2010's The Way. But whereas The Way was a gentle, almost spiritual journey of a man making a conscious decision to complete his son's failed trek, Wild is a desperate attempt by a floundering woman to claw back something resembling life and peace.
Though Reese Witherspoon won her Oscar for Walk the Line, I don't believe she has ever been better than here, stripped bare, exposed and raw. And, no, I'm not talking about the nudity or sex scenes. If you find those remotely titillating you have a serious issue with emotional connection. She has wiped off the make up, torn off the happy-go-lucky girl-next door persona that has carried her through countless rom-coms and hammered us with a performance that makes us want to shake her fiercely one moment and hug her the next.
Vallée has crafted a touching film that doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of heroin, promiscuity and a twitching finger that frequently hits the self-destruct button. But whilst Vallée implies the level of unpleasantness in in Cheryl's life, he avoids laboring the point, largely through the use of quickly edited flashbacks and segues from present to various pasts. It is a device that keeps us onside but is also the biggest failing with Wild.
There are too many hints that are not fully explained, too many avenues glanced at but not fully explored. Occasionally there are scenes, particularly the frogs on the seeping bag, that were presumably significant in Strayed's book but are left dangling so as to be almost irrelevant. Cheryl's relationship with her brother is left as an unexplored afterthought and there is altogether too much unfinished business. The conclusion, which should give hope or at least a sense of satisfaction, is rattled though and lost as if Vallée is anxious to attain a sub-two-hour film at all costs.
But despite the niggles, Wild is a film of starkness and beauty with vistas that are breathtaking and pander to the wanderlust that bubbles fiercely just below the surface of this particular viewer.
I need a copy of the soundtrack and I need to walk for a very long time.
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