Wild, opening in theaters tonight, is the movie to see with your best friend or your mom this weekend. But warning: This isn't your classic Reese rom-com. Prepare to have raised eyebrows--and you might want to keep your hankie handy.
This is a real-life, gritty, sad-yet-uplifting story about dealing with loss, self destruction, redemption, and finding yourself. It's based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir about her 1,100 mile solo journey along the Pacific Crest Trail.
Directed by Jean Marc Valle, it features Witherspoon as Strayed, sans makeup and toiling along without the benefit of daily showers, much less a hair stylist, cursing every hiking-boot step of the way. This is as downtrodden as the usually perky actress has ever been on film. Can you say tattooed, nymphomaniac heroin-addict?
Thankfully, Strayed (and hence Witherspoon) recovers from that dark period of her life when she slept with strangers and got highs from quick fixes to deal with a loss that I won’t spoil here, and perseveres. In her quest to find herself she also discovers the toll of a heavy backpack, the harsh reality of dirty water, and a wild fox or two along the way. Though the film captures some long bouts of solitude, Strayed also comes face to face with a few eccentric humans on her sojourn, including a pushy journalist who calls her a “lady hobo,” and some very creepy hunters, reminiscent of the predators in Deliverance.
She also stumbles across adorable Michiel Huisman (of Game of Thrones fame who can also be seen in the upcoming Age of Adaline) on her journey. Their sweet tryst in a small town offers a welcome respite from Witherspoon's relentless trudging, as do the happy-sad flashbacks featuring her mom (played expertly by Laure Dern) and her supportive ex-husband, played by the handsome Thomas Sadowski (from The Newsroom).
All in all, it’s an engaging piece of film making, no easy feat for a story that’s basically about a woman’s solitary hike and the trials and tribulations she has along the way. But with the aid of flashbacks, journal entries, colorful characters, and an eclectic soundtrack featuring the likes of Portished, Bruce Springsteen, Simon and Garfunkle, and First Aid Kit--not to mention breathtaking vistas of the Washington and Oregon wilderness—it all works.
I’ll be shocked if Witherspoon doesn’t garner some major nominations for this bare-your-soul-and your-body performance.