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A chronicle of one woman’s 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent catastrophe.
Reese Witherspoon – Cheryl Strayed
Laura Dern – Barbara “Bobbi” Grey
Thomas Sadoski – Paul
Keene McRae – Leif
Gaby Hoffmann – Aimee
Michiel Huisman – Jonathan
I have mixed feelings about Wild. On one hand it had me feeling quite emotional, on the other it was nothing I haven’t seen before. The movie Tracks for example, starring Mia Wasikowska. Ok, she wasn’t a recovering drug addict and did her trek for different reasons, but the concept of changing your outlook on life by taking a walk remains the same. That said, Wild does grasp certain problems by the balls and lays them clearly on screen for viewers to witness.
Reese does a good job of her portrayal of Cheryl Strayed (ironic isn’t it – Strayed went astray). I can’t fault her on any part of her performance, it was quite genuine. Near the beginning of the movie Cheryl speaks the words, “I will walk my way back to the woman my mother thought I was” – quite a powerful expression for a woman who may be embarking on a charity walk. Or crossing the country to change her life, of course. Overall, Reese injects some very good emotion into the movie – be it serious emotion or comedy. The actress manages to uphold the two nicely, bringing a character to life who I’m certain a few viewers would be able to relate to. Cheryl has issues; drug addiction, divorce, terminally ill parent.. she comes with a lot of baggage – and not just that which is attached to her back.
I burst into tears during one scene. Cheryl is nearing the end of her hike and wanders into a forest walking trail, where she bumps into a little boy and his grandmother who are spending the day going for a hike together. When Cheryl bends down to speak to the little chap, he asks if she would like to hear a song his mother taught him. She agrees, and the boy offers a heartfelt rendition of Red River Valley. The expression on his face as he warbles the song is adorable, the look in his eyes so innocent. And when he’s done and goodbyes to him and his grandmother are said, Cheryl takes a few steps forward – then collapses in tears on the grass. And I felt tears falling down my own face.
Wild seemed to harness emotions brilliantly, with the simplest of actions bringing deep feeling. It’s not a masterpiece but it is a creative movie which blends scenic landscapes with emotion nicely, thus delivering a “I’m on my own in a foreign land” impact using the main character. Being upset or emotional in a place you are not familiar with can heighten the experience; drunk outside an unfamiliar bar in a strange location, whilst abroad and feeling homesick, etc. – Reese captures this emotion brilliantly and plays it well. But it’s not all tears. Quite a few times she had the audience laughing out loud during witty scenes (usually demonstrating Cheryl’s naievety). That’s another element of the movie – honesty. Portraying some scenarios as so honest and often naieve that they had the audience laughing heartily in recognition.
Laura Dern stars as Cheryl’s terminally ill mother Bobbi. And although 80% of her screen time is quite saddening, the actress is faultless in her display. In fact, something about the woman’s presence added wonderfully to this movie. I think mainly due to Laura’s classic motherly image; Bobbi’s story is tragic but had to be played in a way that showed she was still a doting mother. Laura was perfectly casted. Certain scenes of hers were quite moving – when she was admitted to hospital in particular. There is some heartwrenching dialogue between the two actresses, leading up to the final scene where Bobbi’s donor wishes are granted and Cheryl erupts in screams of anguish. This scene pulled at my heartstrings, was very sad. The fact that this movie is based on a true story and personal experiences, gives it the power to be very involving. The concept – a young woman riddled with angst and personal problems going for a walk across the country – is simple. But the action is so very real, hence why Wild is effective viewing.
On a different note, I pondered about Laura at one point. She seems to have popped up and made appearances in various features over the past few years, after having a long time off screen (I don’t recall seeing her in any movies, especially at the cinema). And now here she is, in Wild. I wondered (and hoped) if this was a teaser before bursting on to the screen in Jurassic World which is released in cinemas later this year. Laura Dern was a massive part of the Jurassic Park movies – she seems to be a cinematic regular at the moment – the fourth installment of Jurassic Park is out soon. It fits perfectly. But will she surface from the swamps to appear in Jurassic World? Even as just a cameo? No one enjoys another serving of a classic movie without the original actors.
Come on, Laura.
Wild is an emotion-fuelled piece of cinema. I wasn’t sure what I’d think of it seeing as we’ve had the likes of Tracks already, but it did the job. If anything, it was a bit better than Tracks. And as mentioned, the striking element was the lead character’s life. This movie flows as a difficult cross-country trek mixed with flashbacks about her past; abusive father, drug problems, divorce. All are hard-hitting issues experienced by many people, which makes for a raw honest watch. Honest script, tough outdoor experiences.. Wild certainly shows what happens to a person when they are pushed to their limits. How that person comes into their own and deals with challenging situations right in front of them.
This isn’t just a movie about a woman shoving on a backpack and jumping over mountain rocks. She comes with more baggage than what she’s carrying, and it explores this concept. Cheryl has a few issues within herself to sort out, not just what faces her on the road. Although I have mixed views on this one, I can’t deny it contains some genuinely touching issues. If you’re feeling overly emotional I’d give this one a miss. That said, if you do need a good cry – give it a go. It’s easy watching but contains some very powerful stuff.
Raw. Honest. Bohemian.