Thursday, February 5, 2015

Wild (2014)

Title: Wild (2014)

Director: Jean-Marc Vallee

Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern

Wild is the story of Cheryl Strayed, a woman who falls into heroin addiction and furthermore, becomes sexually promiscuous in order to deal with her mother’s death. After reaching an all time low by becoming a town whore and getting pregnant in the process, she decides it’s time to do something with her life in order to straighten things out.  She decides to go hiking for three months in order to ‘find herself’ and eradicate her heroin addiction. Can she survive on her own for three months in the wilderness and kick her heroin addiction? And will Reese Witherspoon win an Oscar for this role?

I did some surfing on the net, trying to scope the general reaction for this film and discovered (to my surprise) that some folks seem to be disappointed by this film because they find it “to simple of a movie”. That it’s just about Reese Witherspoon walking around remembering the events that led her to heroin and sex addiction. That it’s not worthy of a movie, that it’s an ego trip for Reese Witherspoon. I guess those folks just don’t get it. I mean, yes, they are right; this is a film about a woman walking and remembering, but to these sentiments I say, what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with a film about analyzing ourselves? So obviously, Wild is not a movie for everyone, especially not those expecting special effects, action or impossible situations. No, this movie is more of an introspective tale, a spiritual journey of self discovery, so be ready for that.  

How personal is this story? Well, it’s based on Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild: From Lost to Found in the Pacific Crest Trail, which she mostly wrote as she hiked the trail herself. This is why we hear a lot of inner monologue through out the film, we here Cheryl’s thoughts as she is hiking, which made perfect sense to me. When  you hike for as long as she did, it’s just you, the road, nature and your mind. So what the director was doing here was capturing the experience of hiking on film; the loneliness, the beauty of nature, the grandness of the landscape and the inevitable tendency to get introspective, to reanalyze your life; where you've been, where you’re going, what does it all mean? We also get a glimpse at the whole hiker community, a whole different lifestyle that you've probably never gotten a glimpse at. It’s these elements that make this film unique. A good movie should capture the experience it’s trying to represent on film in a convincing manner and director Jean-Marc Vallee did just that, so kudos to him for it.

I like spiritual tales like this one. They are about people trying to connect with themselves, with the universe, trying to find the goodness in life by disconnecting from all the crap that society has to offer. Let’s face it, the world we live in offers some really crappy solutions to the sameness of it all. Once you grow tired of your repetitive life, of your problems, it’s easy to turn to drugs and alcohol to escape it all. What I liked about this movie is that it was Cheryl looking to escape from the escapes, if that makes any sense at all. She’s cuts with the world and with everyone in it in order to hear her own voice. That’s worthy of a movie for me, it’s a worthwhile story to tell. It reminded me a bit of Sean Penn’s Into the Wild (2007), though they are different films because Into the Wild was more about a man looking to completely disconnect from the modern life, completely giving his back to society and the modern world. Wild is more about escaping it all for a while, punishing your body a bit, showing it who is boss; taking a breather from the modern world in order to return to the battle and start again. But they share that idea of disconnecting, leaving all the noise of the world behind. Hiking for three months in the wild is no piece of cake; it takes a special kind of determination and will power and yes, inner strength to do it. Even more interesting is the fact that Cheryl Strayed did this without any prior experience in trail hiking!

Reese Witherspoon (left) and Cheryl Strayed (right)

Reese Witherspoon has gotten an Oscar nomination for her work in this film, but she has to go up against some stiff competition. She's going up against Julianne Moore for Still Alice, Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl, Felicity Jones for Theory of Everything and Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night. I guess we’ll see if she has what it takes to win, I thought her performance was excellent but I haven’t seen the competing films, so here’s hoping. I enjoy films like this one, they talk about life and how all of us deal with it in different ways. Some say big deal, we all got problems and they don’t make a movie about them. We all lose our mothers; we don’t all turn to promiscuous sex and drugs to deal with it; to that I say we don’t all react the same way when we lose someone close to us, some of us go on just fine, others break down. Each of our stories is different, they could make a movie about all of our lives, each one would be entirely different, each one would teach us a little something about the world we live in. This is Cheryl Strayeds story, and we can learn just as much from it as well. It’s a story about loss and redemption, told in a beautiful and sometimes poetic way, definitely worth a watch.

Rating: 5 out of 5   

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