Film Review: Wild

Reese Witherspoon de-glamorized, a Nick Hornby screenplay and a 1000 mile walk in the wilderness?  Sounds interesting….

Based on the true account of Cheryl Strayed’s trek through the American wilderness via the Pacific Crest Trail, Wild tells the story of a woman’s hike to find a better version of herself.  After several years of trauma and self-destruction, Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) sets off alone to walk, facing both personal demons and dangers alike.  It’s far from an easy road.

There’s a lot I like about this movie.  I like Reese Witherspoon’s pared down, uncompromising performance as Cheryl, which is a step away from many of her previous performances. Laura Dern is also excellent as Cheryl’s luminous and inspiring Mom.  I liked the way we’re not always sympathetic towards Cheryl’s character, Nick Hornby playing the flashback, bitchy Cheryl against the comedy of some of her encounters on the Trail.  Unfortunately the many flashback sequences go way beyond scene setting and do make the movie over-long.

It’s a very human story, but some won’t understand why Cheryl was motivated to take on the task of the walk, because they’ve just not been there and felt the need to walk, to flee, to run, to take that road trip.  In particular some won’t appreciate why a woman, even one fuel by feminism and self-reliance, which is portrayed in such a clunky way at times it’s painful, would set off alone in the wilderness.  Others will completely relate to the drive Cheryl has to do accomplish something big to take the trauma away and for this it’s worth a viewing.

I so wanted this movie to feel like a woman’s picture, but the male interpretation of what makes a feminist, and the repeated insistence on the male gaze, make it seem like the director of the movie, Jean-Marc Vallée, and Nick Hornby teamed up and cobbled together what they thought should be a woman’s point of view.  I do wonder what movie could have been created with women at the helm.

Wild is in cinemas from 15th January.

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