sat 20/07/2024

DVD: Wild | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Wild

DVD: Wild

A Reese Witherspoon heroine hikes her way to happiness

Her cross to bear: Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) in 'Wild'

Wild is solid, but Reese Witherspoon wasn’t necessarily the best choice to play a woman who took a 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail – from the Mojave Desert to the Bridge of Gods, which links Oregon to Washington State – to banish her demons.

Considering Witherspoon's chipper personality, can-do spirit, fabulous smile, and natural aura of resilience, her casting loaded the dice. Were we expected to believe her character would sobbingly abandon her trek a third of the way through, or, for that matter, not find transcendence and a handsome, laid-back guy (Michiel Huisman) to sleep with en route?

Adapted by Nick Hornby from Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, the movie was directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and photographed by fellow Québécois Yves Bélanger. Whereas their collaboration on Dallas Buyers Club, a more urgent self-help drama, was marked by an effectively fuzzy neo-realistic style, they bring an imposing National Geographic look to Wild’s spectacular vistas, though without harnessing their images of the landscape to Cheryl’s psychological evolution, as Anthony Mann did in his great James Stewart Westerns. Her journey itself borders on the humdrum, despite the array of hardcore hikers and predators she meets.

The film’s most compelling scenes are its flashbacks, shot mostly in sallowly lit interiors. As Cheryl hikes, scrambles, and wrecks her feet, she recalls the fun she had with her loopy single mother (beautifully played by Laura Dern, pictured right) and her premature death, which triggered the girl’s self-medicating with promiscuity – the exact plight of Samantha Morton’s character in 1997’s Under the Skin – and heroin. Witherspoon is almost a convincing slut, wantonly sticking her finger in her mouth on one occasion, but can’t match the abandonment of, say, the drug addict played by Erika Christensen in 2000’s Traffic. She proves a game outdoorswoman of course, and enhances her likeability by not wearing make-up. The use of Simon and Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa”, frequently heard in snatches on the soundtrack, is thematically interesting but grating.

The DVD’s extras include a profile of Cheryl Strayed, an audio commentary by Vallée and two of the film’s producers, and seven promotional featurettes; there’s much more on the Blu-ray.

Witherspoon is almost a convincing slut, wantonly sticking her finger in her mouth on one occasion


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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