Reese Witherspoon is back in the Oscar spotlight with Wild, a dark and poetic tale of a young woman traveling along a thousand mile trail in hopes of self-redemption and soul discovery. The story starts at a dark place and ends up at one a little more hopeful, but it’s the actual journey that makes it a film worth unraveling, thanks to Witherspoon’s ability to dig deep and deliver a heartfelt performance. Wild is a fascinating film directed with enough skill and acted with a whole lot of heart.
Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) is a mess up. Her life hasn’t exactly panned out the way she wanted it to. She’s lost her way sometime after her loving mother passed away and now she does pretty much whatever she can for a quick high. She cheats on her husband, smokes, snorts and shoots up any ready drug and gives very little thought about her actions and what they might lead to.
She’s down and out and empty inside.
But that all changes when she decides to get up and make a better world for herself. She decides to hike one of the most intense trails that spans from Mexico all the way up to the Canadian border and she plans on making this trip alone and emerging a new woman. She can quit at any point, but she motivates and pushes her self past her known limits and into territory that even she didn’t know existed.
Wild is an inspiring story about life change, embracing who and what you love and absolutely never taking no for an answer. It comes as an aftermath to a woman full of her fair share of problems, but that doesn’t make the journey any less meaningful. Self-discovery doesn’t exactly have a time limit and it sure doesn’t lessen with age.
Reese Witherspoon‘s Cheryl is a strong woman, only made stronger by her mother that more than shaped her life and gave her a reason to truly live. Witherspoon may be slightly older than one would think for a story like this, but she definitely gives the film its beating heart and purpose. Without her, perhaps Wild would have come up empty handed, especially in the hands of director Jean-Marc Vallée.
It’s not that he does bad things with the film or the material, but Wild really is Witherspoon’s show, with the direction sitting firmly in the backseat. Sure, Vallée coherently strings together the film’s plot through the use of flashbacks and many strong shots of wildlife scenery, but the raw emotion on display through Witherspoon’s performance is what makes Wild a film worth watching.
Her vulnerability and uncertainty makes Cheryl unique and likable and her humor and general easygoing attitude makes the trip an entertaining ride worth following on a day-to-day basis. Wild doesn’t cram in unneeded action or subplots and it really doesn’t sprinkle in that much acting aside from Witherspoon’s brief encounters with others. It instead focuses on Cheryl from start-to-finish and never bothers playing things up or sinking too low.
It has its ups and downs and can definitely be considered an emotional roller coaster, but it’s never too far off from hope and understanding. Cheryl may be a bit slow at discovering that everything she wanted in life was always right in front of her, but watching her find her path by literally trekking for so long is a welcoming satisfaction that puts actress Reese Witherspoon on the radar unlike ever before.
Director Jean-Marc Vallée simply gives her a blank canvas to paint on. The rest is Reese Witherspoon and come Oscar season I’d have no problem watching her earn a nod or maybe even take home a golden statue. But the rest of the film doesn’t deserve as much credit, because while Wild is an uplifting story — it’s been done before and it’s been done better.
Wild – 7.5/10