Unfortunately, here in Las Vegas, this film did not open on December 5, which was when this review was penned and published. Although the date was correctly quoted at the end of this article, it could have lead to some confusion, ergo it was decided to provide a bit of an update to the original. Since appearing in Wild Reese Witherspoon has gone on to be considered for nomination for a little bald, and golden, chap known as Oscar and if film fans have not already seen this outstanding movie, they should get ready to fall in love with this true story and Witherspoon. To learn more about the feature continue reading.
Not being a huge Reese Witherspoon fan, it came as a bit of a surprise to be completely bowled over by the award winning actress’s performance in Wild and audiences should get ready to fall in love with her and the real life character she portrays, Cheryl Strayed. Based upon Ms. Stray’s 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail the film was adapted for the big screen by Nick Hornby (About a Boy, Fever Pitch) and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, The Young Victoria) this tale of a woman who takes a solo journey of discovery after the death of her mother is haunting, beautiful and touching.
The real Cheryl Strayed is a columnist and author whose book the film is based on stayed at number one for seven weeks. She also got the ultimate plug for her work from Oprah Winfrey in 2012. Bringing this story of self discovery of the epic sort, the then 26 year old woman took a 1,100 mile trek up the PCT. The 38 year old actress playing Strayed, looks like she is in her mid to early 20s and in some scenes she looks even younger, quite an impressive feat.
It is not, however, Witherspoon’s youthful appearance that helps her to convince in this film, it is her performance. She manages to bring to life the journey that Strayed undertook with complete conviction. Watching the actress trek through the Mojave desert and then winding up at the end of the journey having gotten in touch with herself and discovering her inner feelings. Watching the film in the cinema, the viewer is all too aware that the actress is not really alone as she clambers over big rocks and scrambles down long ravines and mountainsides. The audience knows that a camera and technical crew are there with Witherspoon but between her acting skills and the director’s efforts, the idea that “Cheryl Strayed” is not alone never enters one’s head.
Of course, in her mind, Strayed is not alone at all, she is reliving events in her life, the ones that have brought her to this long journey of self discovery. At the beginning of Wild Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed has to get ready for her over 1,000 mile hike, checking into a hotel room, she begins to load up her “monster backpack” and when she puts it on, the woman falls over in a comic display of trying to get up and beat the weight of the pack. This scene alone is enough to make the viewer fall in love with Witherspoon.
In the film, as the young woman traverses the rugged countryside she struggles personal loss, her mother (played brilliantly by Laura Dern) dying from cancer and the divorce from her husband have left her feeling very alone. On the trail, however, she manages to meet quite a number of people. Some who are nice and helpful, such as the farmer played by superb character actor W.Earl Brown (Scream, The Lone Ranger), and others who fall into the creepy category like the two deer hunters she comes across before bumping into the ranger (Brian Van Holt) who sort of fell in-between the former two types.
The cinematography is stunning and Wild, despite having no gratuitous violence and only a modicum of sex scenes, is so compelling to watch that one is never conscious of time passing at all. In fact, the feeling by the end of the movie is one of disappointment that the feature has finished. This inspiring tale of an impressive woman who goes into the wild to learn herself gives Reese Witherspoon the chance to make up for The Good Lie and show just how massive those acting chops of hers are. Laura Dern is touching as Cheryl’s mother and this 47 year old award winning actress was the perfect choice. Wild opens December 19 in Las Vegas and audiences should get ready to fall in love with both Witherspoon and Cheryl Strayed. Prepare to be thoroughly caught up in this “wild” film and disappointed when it ends.
By Michael Smith
Regal Downtown Summerlin Stadium 5