As far as I can recall, I haven’t been much of an outdoors person. That being said, I wouldn’t knock the idea of a camping trip or a local hike. But for those who do long-distance hikes, I respect your perseverance. A movie about a dedicated hiker could have been fascinating, but “Wild” leaves more to be desired.
Following a series of events that impact her life in a negative way. Cheryl Strayed [Reese Witherspoon] challenges herself. In order to prove that she’s willing to move forward in her life, she sets out to walk over a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail all by herself. As she carries a large pack on her back, she struggles to make it to her goal without giving up. Seeing how Reese Witherspoon is the main protagonist, she is literally carrying the entire film on her shoulders. The success of “Wild” mainly relies on her character to keep it alive and interesting. Despite the praise I heard going in, I was let down as the film flows in one direction.
Witherspoon is both a positive and negative in the film. If you didn’t know before, “Wild” is based off of the novel written by Strayed herself when she took this journey in 1995. What I’m about to say has nothing to do with the real-life Strayed. From what I saw, I applaud what she actually went through to get herself together.
However, if a film is going to be made off of your life, you have to be interesting in a cinematic sense. Given the material, this was probably better suited as a novel. Reese Witherspoon looks and acts the part of a worn-down woman that needs an extra boost to her step. She’s made many mistakes throughout her life and, over the course of the film, her story is told through multiple flashbacks. In real life, I can understand her struggle. But once again, in a cinematic sense, I’ve seen this all before and the director does nothing to make it fresh. Who hasn’t seen the story that is filled with flashback after flashback before? Eventually, it gets repetitive and the more they do it, the more it sucks me out of the present situation. They mostly save the big revelations about Strayed for the second half of the film. Until then, I was left questioning why I should care about her journey.
The film has its positives though. The opening five minutes are absolutely brilliant. It sets up our main protagonist in a horrific situation where she has to pull off one of her bleeding toenails as she screams into the wild, followed by a series of images leading up to the title card. While the character of Strayed wasn’t that interesting, Reese Witherspoon does her best–as she gives an adequate performance. The real shining star was Laura Dern as her mother. Honestly, the mother was a much more intriguing presence than her daughter. Whenever it cut back to her, the film picked up. Dern deserves her nomination.
But like Cheryl’s journey, the film goes in one direction and gets tiresome after a while. If the filmmakers intent was to make me feel like I’m traveling a thousand miles with her, then job well done. Just to be clear, this isn’t a bad film. There is a great performance in Laura Dern’s character and the cinematography of the landscape was beautiful to look at. But for me, that doesn’t make up for a two-hour hike that has a few pit stops along the way to keep the journey tolerable.
Matt Bilodeau can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org