With the Oscars just four weeks away, I am doing my best to get to as many of the nominated films as I can before the broadcast. I've already seen Birdman, Boyhood, Gone Girl, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash, and now I can add Wild to that list.
*SPOILER ALERT!* If you do not want to know anything about the plot of this movie, please stop reading now.
Wild is based on the autobiography of the same title, written by Cheryl Strayed. After her divorce (a result of her cheating and drug abuse) she decides to climb the entire Pacific Coast Trail on her own.
Cheryl is played by Reese Witherspoon, who also produced the film. Many critics felt Reese might be too sweet and wholesome to play a role this gritty, but you know what? She rose to the occasion.
In one of the first scenes in the movie, Cheryl is in a hotel room stuffing her pack for the hike. It takes her multiple attempts to even stand up with the pack because it's so heavy. Never has Reese Witherspoon looked less attractive or confident than in that moment. That's when I knew she had given herself over fully to the character.
The majority of the film follows Cheryl as she makes her way across the trail. Those real time moments are spliced with flashbacks to her childhood and more recent years, when her marriage was falling apart.
Cheryl meets three different men along the trail (there may have been more, but that's what we got to see), including a young hippie named Jonathan. He is portrayed by Michiel Huisman, who I know as Liam from Nashville. Cheryl and Jonathan share a very primal sex scene.
Early on, Cheryl meets Greg, a fellow hiker. He is played by Kevin Rankin, best known as Herc on Friday Night Lights.
Rounding out the trio of male admirers is Brian Van Holt, who plays a park ranger. He gives Cheryl preferential treatment over all the male hikers (a theme that continues throughout her time on the trail). In fact, there's a hilarious scene where one of the other rangers helps Cheryl lighten her pack by tossing things out (including her 12 pack of condoms).
Of all the supporting roles in the film, the most touching is Laura Dern as Cheryl's mother. When she is diagnosed with cancer, Cheryl's life completely unravels. In the scene where Cheryl arrives to the hospital and learns her mother has passed, I had to turn away it was so hard to watch.
There was one other scene that was so emotional that I had to look away and it happened with just about ten minutes left in the film. Cheryl is walking along and bumps into a little boy (probably four years old) and his grandmother. The little boy offers to sing Cheryl a song his mother taught him. He was about two verses into the tune when I started to cry. And not like, one glistening tear. I am talking, really crying. I don't know what came over me, but I lost it!
Overall, I enjoyed Wild. It was interesting to see Reese in such a different role. There was no romance or meet cutes or proposals in jewelry stores or chihuahuas. She completely stripped down and committed to this.
I could tell that there were many flashbacks and back stories that were cut short in order to keep the film from lasting five hours. I am sure in the book, many of those scenes are much longer and more detailed. I wish we had known all the depth and complexity of her relationships with her mother, brother and ex-husband.
I also have a major bone to pick about the ending! After two hours of walking and walking and walking with Cheryl, it ends with that lame voice over? Do us a favor and at least flash forward so we can see what happens to her! Good grief!
A few days after seeing the movie, a friend who had also just seen it asked me, "How crazy were those photos during the credits?" Apparently, if you waited long enough, there were photos of the real Cheryl Strayed on the trail, and the way Reese transformed into her twin was incredible. Sadly, by the time we got to the theater, it was so packed we had to sit in the very first row (ouch, my neck), so we weren't exactly eager to stick around and watch the credits roll.
Tell me, did you see Wild? What did you think?