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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Wild (2014)


I just walked from my living-room to the kitchen, so why am I still addicted to heroin?

One day, 30-ish-year-old Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) decides to do a 1,000 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, all by her lonesome-self. Why is this? Well, after years of drug abuse, random sex with strangers, the loss of her mother (Laura Dern), a few pregnancy scares, and her recent divorce, Cheryl has about had it up to here with life and finally realizes that in order for her to finally change it all, she has to get away from it all and focus her attention on another part of her life: Survival. This means, for Cheryl, she has to eat a lot of cold oatmeal, stay hydrated, stay warm, not die, and sure as hell not get raped by any of the huge creep-o’s that may, or may not be out there in the wilderness, just waiting for a little thing like her to come around into their little wooden-hut. Mostly though, Cheryl just wants to change her life and along her journey, she meets people that are sometimes in the same situation as her, or are just simply hiking for the hell of it.

Just like the Energizer Bunny, she just keeps going....

Just like the Energizer Bunny, she just keeps going….

You know, like we all do.

On the outside looking into a movie like Wild, I cannot help myself one bit to not just scoff at a piece that includes someone played by Reese Witherspoon hiking on an Eat Pray Love-style journey of self-discovery, all because she shot up heroin, had promiscuous sex with a bunch of Randy’s, and got a divorce, because she had promiscuous sex with a bunch of Randy’s. To me, not only does it sound like not “my type of thing”, but it seems like pure Oscar-bait for Witherspoon to show her “range”, and also to see her as a bad-ass kind of gal. Call me harsh, call me what you will, but I know when a movie intrigues me and this was not one of them.

But, from the inside of this movie looking out, I can easily say that not only did it turn out to be “my type of thing”, but Witherspoon more than proved herself capable of being hot, sassy little mama who screws, shoots up, and divorces, whatever she wants, when she wants, and how she chooses to do so.

I never thought I’d ever be typing that in my life, but such is the case when you have a little surprise like this on your hands.

And most of that is due to director Jean-Marc Vallée’s handling of this material and not just letting it tell itself; Vallée gets us inside the mind of this Cheryl Strayed character, shows us what she’s thinking, when she’s thinking, why, and how it affects her current journey in life. Though it gets a bit over-the-top with all of the constant smarmy-narration from Strayed, Vallée still does a nice enough job of putting us slap dab in the middle of this woman’s life and the journey she’s embarking on, and making us actually care for her. Sure, he may utilize more flashbacks than two whole episodes of Lost, but they’re flashbacks that work and allow us to grow closer to this character, the more and more that we know about her.

And trust me, that’s not an easy feet, especially when you have Reese Witherspoon playing the main character, but there’s something about her here that really shocked me and actually puts her whole career into perspective, as a matter of fact. See, it’s not that I dislike Witherspoon as an actress – I think she’s immensely talented and, in the past, has proven to be quite versatile in what she’s chosen, and for how much cash. But lately, it seems that the Reese we all once knew and loved as Elle Woods (or as Tracy Flick, for all you cool 90’s kids out there), has gone the way of the Dodo and would much rather take a huge pay-cut to star in movies where dashing, handsome-as-hell men fight to the death for her and leave her going, “Oh, golly!”

Well, my friends, you no longer have to be scared because it seems like the Reese Witherspoon we all loved is back and this time, she’s rawer than ever! Meaning, that yes, Witherspoon does get quite naked in here and shows us elements to her abilities as an actress that none of us have ever seen before, and it all works. She’s compelling, smart and gives much insight into the type of damaged woman you can still like and care for, even if she’s made some pretty dumb mistakes in the past, and especially to people who don’t at all deserve it. The role could have easily been another large check for Witherspoon, but she puts so much effort into it that it actually pays off and has me so excited to see what she has next. Because, quite frankly, with all of the hits on her hands, by now, she can do whatever she damn well pleases with her career.

....and going......

….and going……

Quite like Cheryl Strayed.

Anyway, all that aside, Wild isn’t perfect. There are moments where it seems to fall back on “are they, or aren’t they rapists” aspect of its story and while it may bring tension to the story, it feels constantly thrown in there, if only to just keep peoples eyes open and watching the screen. But that isn’t to say Cheryl Strayed’s adventure isn’t, as is, already intriguing, or even, ever so slightly, inspirational, because, yes, it is. Though Vallée doesn’t hit us over-the-head too many times with making us feel like we should love this person more and more as she goes on with our journey, it’s still easy to do so. Not because she’s been through a whole hell of a lot to begin with, but because she actually wants to make amends for it all.

The real reason as to why she actually gets up one day and decides to say, “Aw, fuck it! Time for a 1,000 mile hike”, is a question that the movie brings up, never explicitly answers, and leaves hanging like a sad flower that’s been without water for too long. But it doesn’t need to. With giving us many insights into Strayed’s past-life, we get the impression that she needs this more than anything. However, rather than being a total baby and seeming like she’s running away from her problems, it seems more like she’s walking towards a new life, that will probably have its fair share of problems. However, she’s constantly learning and understanding that life will always get better. Sometimes though, you just have to take advantage of it, get up, and see what’s out there in this huge canvas we call “Earth”.

Okay, now I’m definitely getting sappy here. Damn you, Reese!

Consensus: With a compelling lead performance from a very dedicated Reese Witherspoon, Wild gets past any of the problems it may have with its narrative and reminds its audience about the small pleasures in life, even if they don’t always come right away.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

...and, yup, you guessed it, still going......

…and, yup, you guessed it, still going……

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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9 responses to “Wild (2014)

  1. Java Girl December 13, 2014 at 6:50 am

    Yay, you did the Wild movie review! Last time I checked, they weren’t showing it in any NJ movie theaters. I’m currently listening to the audio book and I must say…it’s very compelling. I’m curious to see what parts of the book aren’t shown in the movie. Great post as always!

  2. Cindy Bruchman December 13, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Nice review, Dan. Seems like she’ll always be fighting the sweet, girl-next-door reputation. That is, if she gets naked, screws, and does heroin, she can be taken seriously as an actress again. Is this her version of ‘Monster’ where we see nothing of Reese but a transformation into a different woman?

  3. keith7198 December 13, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Solid review. I’ve read some interesting things about this film. Not sure about it but I plan on checking it out.

  4. comotconmeoditimhanhphuc December 13, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I love that bit where you expressed your view from both the outside and inside. I am so looking forward to seeing this movie, especially a rather new Reese.

  5. Kristin December 13, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    I think Reese Witherspoon in this role makes Wild polarizing. I haven’t seen it yet, but I do hope to soon. I’m still torn on what to think, but I’m aiming to go in with low expectations so I’m not disappointed. Excellent review here, Dan!

  6. girlsdofilm December 13, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Can’t wait for this to come out in the UK; I just started reading the book in preparation. I was concerned it would be a bit too Eat-Pray-Love ‘self help-y’ for my taste but I think it’s safe to say it’s not. I too had misgivings about Witherspoon in this kind of role, but it sounds like she’s made a real commitment.

  7. Three Rows Back December 13, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Man, the opinions on this are over the place. One person loves it, the other hates it!

  8. JustMeMike December 14, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    I’ll probably see it sooner rather than later. I think I should be able to compare it to Mia Wasikowska’s film called Tracks – of a similar journey only across Australia.

    What I am hoping for is that I go in without a lot of expectations because I don’t really have a lengthy background of Reese’s films.

    Rendition, How Do You Know, Water For Elephants, and This Means War. That’s just four films in 7 years for me and Ms Witherspoon.

    I too liked your twin views from the outside looking in and from the inside. Nice review.

  9. polarbears16 December 15, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Just saw this. Witherspoon was great, but I think the real star was Laura Dern. Her ability to make so much out of such a small role was really impressive.

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