And the Oscar for best no makeup makeup goes to….
“Wild” stars Reese Witherspoon as the real life Cheryl Strayed, a woman whose destructive behavior had left her life in shambles. After the death of her mom she dropped everything and with no experience, hiked over 1,000 miles of the Pacific Coast Trail alone in an attempt to find meaning, strength,and hopefully healing. And I mean metaphorically as well as literally healing as well. I mean, seriously, yanking off a toenail can cause some real infections. And if that was a little TMI for you, well, Wild may just be a bit too Wild for your taste, cause this movie is fearless in laying out the pain and process of this incredible journey.
Strayed and some demons to deal with and they are on display here completely, and I think it’s to the movie’s credit I think that it doesn’t pull any of the ugliness out. We see clearly this woman’s mistakes and the consequences of her choices, just as clearly as we see the pain of trying to hike 1000 miles with no experience. And it makes for a truly compelling look at how this woman is. Witherspoon is also incredible in her “makedown” performance, being beaten down by both the path of her past and the path that she walks along the trail. Speaking of which, the other true star of this movie is the Pacific Coast Trail itself, a trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada, and has some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen on screen in a long time. It makes for a brutal and beautiful juxtaposition to this woman’s life, and is stunning in it’s presentation and scope. The whole experience ends up feeling like an incredible walking tour of the western landscape, with a true life story along for ride.
The only issue is that I’m not sure where the road ends. Now, that’s not an awful thing, many movies are left ambiguous to great effect. But here it feels more accidental than intentional, or at the very least unavoidable. Maybe it’s that Strayed’s story is all about the journey and not the destination, but if we are going to invest in a character based on the metaphorical and literal struggle, it’d be nice to see what the result is. The movie spectacularly portrays the brutality of the journey, but never seems to clearly state what our lead is discovering, or better yet how that changes her. I think we are left to fill in those blanks ourselves, which I’m fine with doing, but I would have loved to see some of that on the screen
At the end of the day, “Wild” is a beautiful and audacious telling of one woman’s life story through hiking the difficult terrain of the Pacific Coast Trail. Reese Witherspoon gives an amazing performance, and even if the evolution of the character falls a bit short the overall experience is still breathtaking enough to reach it’s summit at an A-