Sunday, March 15, 2015

Wild (2014)

Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Writers:  Nick Hornby, Cheryl Strayed
Cast:       Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Gaby Hoffman

A chronicle of one woman's 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent personal catastrophe. It is based on Cheryl Strayed's 2012 memoir 'Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail' and was adapted to the screen by Nick Hornby.

I have seen people crowing about Sean Penn's 'Into the Wild' as if it is a masterpiece when in fact it is such a shallow film with a very annoying narration. Those people who think so highly of that film should watch this one. In direct comparison to 'Into the Wild', the narrative itself sets 'Wild' a class above. The latter uses random, sometimes not very coherent ramblings from Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) as she takes the difficult hike and the flashback visuals reminded me of Terence Malick's 'Tree of Life'. They have described it as 'Free-associative, memory-driven narrative', which was how it was in the memoir also. Over the course of the film we learn that she had lost her mother to cancer and the resulting grief led to years of reckless destructive behavior from her part. She is doing the Pacific Crest Trail (starts from US-Mexico border in south West till US-Canada border in North-West covering 2633 miles), with motivational help from her ex-husband, so that she could get her life back on track. There is no effort from the script and director to make her likable but we care for her over the course of the film in the same way as we did for characters in 'The Babadook'. We totally buy the performance from Reese Witherspoon but I was not that enamored by how saccharine Laura Dern's mother characters was. Maybe it is indeed a fair portrayal because we see her through Cheryl's memories and she is choosing to remember her in an overly good way. There is no big dramatic moments in a 'coming of age' sense which is perfect since whatever happened to her in a positive sense happened over the whole sweaty slog.

So it is two in two for Jean-Marc Vallee with his previous film 'Dallas Buyers Club' also getting universal acclaim. While I liked that film, it is not something that I will be revisiting again. Wild gives him more scope to showcase his directorial flourishes and overall I think it is a better film and the central performance from Reese Witherspoon stands well in comparison with Matthew McConaughey's from DBC. PCT is indeed very scenic as we go further north and Simon Garfunkel's 'If I could' is used very well. It is certainly Reese Witherspoon's best role of her career so far.

Rating: 4.5/5