- Movie Rating -

Wild (2014)

| December 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

You would think that the adventures of a young woman alone on a three month hike might best be served with a touch of simplicity. From the bare bones description, Wild sounds like the kind of outdoor travelogue that Walt Disney use to make. But sadly no, this is not that movie. Today, in the 21st century, it’s not good enough to simply show someone communing with nature. Now, we have to leaden the story with the interior struggle, with horrid flashbacks to unhappiness and tragedy.

The sheer loneliness of the American wilderness has recently been the focus of two excellent bio-pics 127 Hours and Into the Wild, both of which dealt with the characters in communing with nature due to the fact that it’s really all you need. Wild isn’t written that way. Like the other two films, it is based on a true story, but it’s bogged down in too many flashbacks, too much emotional overload, and too much of just . . . too much.

Wild tells the true story of Cheryl Strayed, a troubled young woman whose personal distress led her on an insane three month hiking trip up the 1,100 mile Pacific Crest Trail all by herself. The fact that Strayed is played in the movie by Reese Witherspoon takes some of the pressure off of our concern for her safety. Witherspoon has always been the model of pluck and endurance and we figure that this is what will carry her through. The movie is also a personal act of endurance for Witherspoon’s career. After winning the Best Actress Oscar 9 years ago, her career has been an uphill climb chiefly because of male-dominated Hollywood’s disinterest in a 38 year-old actress. Recently, she was turned down for the part of Amazing Amy in Gone Girl, despite the fact that she helped to produce it, and that’s what has led her to produce and star in this movie under the direction of Jean-Marc Vallée who directed Matthew McConaughey to a Best Actor Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club.

The performance is fine. Witherspoon gives her all playing a woman whose life seems to be an endless reiteration of Murphy’s Law. We first meet Cheryl on the trail at her lowest point, tending to an infected foot and a further humiliation when she accidentally knocks her shoe off a cliff. Why is she here in the middle of nowhere? All with be revealed. Trust me, ALL will be revealed.

The best parts of the movie deal with her struggles in the wilderness. Obviously not an experienced outdoor woman, Cheryl is clearly out of her element. She’s lugging a 50-pound pack, and tries to talk herself out of the trip before she’s even five miles from where she started. Along the trip, she finds herself inundated with dwindling supplies, rattlesnakes, foxes, predatory males, and that infected toe.

Those problems might be enough, but the movie falls apart during endless boring scenes in which we have to deal with her background. The movie flashes back over and over and over to Cheryl’s sad early years dealing an abusive father, a mother with a terminal illness and her own unwise choices. We get the whole spectrum of sadness and misery: child abuse, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, reckless sex, divorce, unwanted pregnancy and a family tragedy that you see coming from a mile away. As soon as you see that her mother is the smiling Laura Dern, you just know that something bad will happen.

This stuff might not be such a hindrance if it were handled with suggestion rather than bold, over-emotional overtures. The movie wants us to understand every single misfortune and bad choice that Cheryl has ever encountered. Yes, we get it, she’s traveling the Pacific Crest Trail to put the past behind her. When it’s over, we’ve been through so much misery and misfortune that we’re ready to put the movie behind us.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2014) View IMDB Filed in: Action, Drama