Wild, based on the international best selling memoir by the same name, tells the story of Cheryl Strayed a young recently divorced woman who hikes the Pacific Crest trail from Southern California to Northern Oregon to heal from toxic life choices she’s made since the death of her mother. Like many pilgrimage films this one is told in real time and flashbacks. Many of her memories involve her sexual exploits and flashbacks of her childhood as she remembers her mother, played by Laura Dern. Without having read the book, much of the poetry of the cataclysmic effect Strayed suffered by this loss is lost and replaced by a handful of scenes many of them repeated several times; so that as an audience member rather than seeing the effects of this beautiful relationship; blatant lines were added such as, “my mother was the love of my life.” This kind of corny screenwriting is exactly what you’d expect from Nick Hornby. In the hands of another screenwriter this film might have penetrated the raw nature at the core of this story, instead of the feel good vibes delivered by Hornby.
Despite the script Reese Witherspoon as Strayed is powerful, demanding anyone who ever doubted her ability eat his or her words. In much of the film she hikes with little to react to but the beautiful landscapes. Wild captures the grand majestic open wilderness contrasted by the solitude encompassing such an odyssey.
For those looking for Eat, Pray, Love this film is not for you. Earlier this year Tracks, another film about a solo female journey was released and is in everyway more successful. Wild is far from perfect, but since there are few films of the genre of ‘defiant adventurous women kicking butt’ I recommend it. No doubt, Witherspoon’s performance will be on the lips of critics come award season.