Wild – Movie Talk

“How wild it was, to let it be.”

Those are the final words spoken by Reese Witherspoon in the movie, Wild. The words come from Cheryl Strayed in her autobiography, which is what the movie is based off. I am not going to claim that I went through anything close to what she did, because I didn’t. However, I found this quote meaningful, and quite personal to me. It was also a great way to end, allowing for reflection after the film.

Wild takes us on the journey of Cheryl Strayed, who is walking a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. She has had many problems with her earlier life that we see through flashbacks. The movie begins and ends with her on the hike. This narrative style works well because we can go into the head of Witherspoon’s character, Strayed, and better understand what is going in her head while she is on her journey. Her journey is told chronologically, but we see her life before as she thinks about it. I really enjoyed how this structure broke down her character, and seeing how important the hike was for her. It takes a while to see everything she went through, so in the beginning you are left without a back story and have to trust that her character will be fully fleshed out. And when the end credits began, I reflected on the entire film, feeling that I had just witnessed every important moment in her life.
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The quote that ended the film resonated with me because it relates to life in general. Numerous events transpired and brought Strayed to a dark place. When she finishes her thousand mile hike, she realizes she cannot control what happens around her. So let it be. Deal with what comes to you, learn how to make yourself better from it, and don’t fight it. Through heartbreaking performances and wonderful direction, this movie shows the importance of not blaming yourself for your misfortunes, and making the best of what you’re given.

I am a big fan of Reese Witherspoon. I just saw her Oscar winning performance in Walk The Line, and recently rewatched her again in Election. In Wild, she gives one of the best performances of her career. She’s not glamorous or covered with make up, she is dirty and grounded as human being. You not only believe that she has walked hundreds of miles in the wilderness, but that she has been through a lot of sadness and grief. There are moments of inspiration, and then moments of terrible sadness. One scene with a little kid singing is so heartbreaking, and so evocative.
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Another actress who deserves to be mentioned is Laura Dern, who plays Strayed’s mother. The two of them have a close, complicated relationship. They have issues, but both understand they’re in less than desirable situations. Dern played her role so well. I truly felt for her story and how she tried to take care of her children, while also dealing with her own life. Her Oscar nomination surprised me, but it was well deserved.

The director Jean-Marc Vallée, who also did 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club seems to be good at getting amazing performances out of his actors. Even though they went empty handed this year at the Oscars, they were the strongest parts of a solid film. I will definitely be paying attention to what he does next.
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Watching someone walk for an entire movie isn’t inherently enjoyable. Beautiful scenery and great music helps that though. The soundtrack and score to this film are terrific. They use a Simon and Garfunkel song better than anyone has since The Graduate.. The cinematography by the same guy as Dallas Buyers Club also looked fantastic. The scenery almost became a character at times, I was so impressed with it.

There are a lot of similarities to this film and Sean Penn’s Into The Wild, which is a movie I like a lot. While they do share some common themes, they feel like different movies. The motivations are different for one. Strayed does her trek because her life is being ruined one event after the other. Chris McCandless from Into The Wild does because he is tired of the societal conformity. While I might like Into The Wild a little more, the transformation and risks taken in Wild made the character of Cheryl Strayed deeper, and emotional.

The standout of this film are the performances, particularly Witherspoon. Despite so narrative flaws, it was a very well made film. I haven’t read the novel, but I can’t see anyone being disappointed with this movie if they have already invested interest in the story. I hope Witherspoon continues to do more roles like these because she is really a great actress. She also has her own production company that helped make Gone Girl. This is not a film I’m going tell everyone to see, but I will never discourage anyone from seeing it.

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