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Reese Witherspoon at a rocky river - Wild

Wild fails to captivate you into the real physical punishment of Cheryl Strayed's life story

JamesArthurArmstrong JamesArthurArmstrong Divorced, alone and recovering from the despair of her mother's death, Cheryl Strayed decided to hike over a thousand miles desperately trying to find her humanity and reclaim her own self-worth.

an extraordinary adventure

Wild is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club), and stars Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line). It tells the real-life story of Cheryl Strayed's extraordinary 1,100-mile adventure across the Pacific Crest Trail. Seeking self-discovery and resolution of her enduring grief after years of reckless behaviour, heroin addiction and self destruction of her marriage, Strayed makes a rash decision. A decision most would deem impetuous but Strayed is a determined character. On the surface its the perfect way to put her past trauma behind her, but only three miles in, Strayed is questioning her judgment.

As the movie develops we begin to piece together the reasons behind Strayed's sudden strength of mind. Wild intertwines the stories of Strayed's life before and during the journey. During flashbacks to her past, we see she wasn't as tenacious. Her decision isn't simply motivated by the breakdown of her marriage— rather, the haunted memories her mother Bobbi's (Laura Dern) death. With limited hiking experience, Strayed is persistent to forge ahead and walk these 1,100 miles in her blood soaked socks and tight fitting boots. It's her way of strengthening her integrity, and ultimately healing the wounds of her past.

Cheryl fills her diary in Wild
Cheryl fills her diary in Wild

too unadorned than poetic

On the surface the movie has the right ingredients to make it the feel good hit it's intended to be. Instead, we are given a plot that is repetitive and lost within the confines of your typical sex, drugs, and sentimental loss concept. Strayed isn't an appealing character, either. She isn't sympathetic— merely, someone who turned her back on her marriage by cheaply giving her body to any sleazy man who made a pass at her. She fell into the world of drugs consequently being rescued by her then irate husband, before she slipped further into addiction. The only part of Strayed's life that has any compassion is the death of her mother, but even the emotional manipulation is blatantly obvious with the narrative of the movie. This attempt to finally get us on-board with her character misses the mark.

The title of the movie plainly depicts the wild side of her past, but this adaptation of the New York Times bestseller never quite earns the hard-fought, redemption tag it wants to achieve. It feels too unadorned than poetic, too busy in its attempts to parade the misdemeanours of her former times.

Besides the flaws in the portrayal of Strayed's character within the screenplay, Reese Witherspoon plays her winningly. It's a role we aren't familiar with Witherspoon playing, so for that alone, she deserves credit for stretching her wings. Although Strayed is a character who has a haunted past, Witherspoon does attempt to draw empathy from inside Strayed, even if the script fails to give us a reason to believe it.

After the success of Dallas Buyers Club last year, director Jean-Marc Vallée hasn't quite lifted this movie above its audacious focal point, Cheryl Strayed. Part of the problem lays in Strayed's backstory. It's restrained for vast portions of the movie with the audience expected to piece it together. This gives the narrative a chunky feel to its structure and is the main obstacle as to why it's hard to feel any sympathy regarding Strayed's life story. An inner monologue flutters in-and-out of this picture that becomes unnecessary rather than informative. The dialogue in these snippets of voice-over aren't exactly enthralling pieces of commentary. Vallée does capture some sublime visuals of an voluminous landscape that holds your attention, but fundamentally, Wild fails to captivate and absorb you into the real punishing physicality and emotional affects a story like this deserves.


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JamesArthurArmstrong JamesArthurArmstrong

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