I really wish this had been about the Erasure album.
Based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, Director Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild tells the story of a woman literally and figuratively journeying to find herself. But, does a deeply introspective story work in this medium?
For me, the answer is, no. Make no mistake, star and producer Reese Witherspoon gives a great performance as Strayed, but the movie didn’t entirely work for me. The story follows Strayed in the wake of her mother’s (Laura Dern) death, her crumbling marriage to Paul (Thomas Sadoski), and subsequent downward spiral into heroin addiction. She decides on a whim to hide the Pacific Crest Trail, 1100 miles from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest. As Strayed makes the solo journey, she meets fellow hikers who impart knowledge and wisdom, while she constantly flashbacks to her past.
The story has several entertaining moments, but I felt that watching a person hike up the western quarter of the country got a little boring and repetitive. Strayed’s story just didn’t really speak to me. What may have worked really well on the page, just didn’t translate well on film. It’s tough to get the same level of introspection that one can achieve in a book into a visual medium like film. Vallée tries his best with the flashbacks and constantly letting the audience hear Strayed’s thoughts, but that too soon became repetitive.
Despite the film as a whole not working for me, Reese Witherspoon’s performance is not the problem here. She does a great job as Strayed and goes to some places that audiences are probably not used to seeing her in. Laura Dern also delivers a nice performance as Strayed’s mother, but the movie totally belongs to Witherspoon.
Overall, I found Reese Witherspoon to be great in Wild, but the movie itself bored me a bit. The deeply introspective nature of the story didn’t translate well to film and rendered the film ineffective. There are some very fine and even humorous moments throughout, but in the end, it’s not a journey that I can wholly recommend.