The first thing one has to know about Wild is this film is nothing like Tom Hanks in Castaway. Reese Witherspoon spends a lot of time alone hiking the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, but she is in no way alone as Hanks is with the use of flashbacks and the numerous human encounters her character comes across along the way. Director Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club) has crafted an effecting and compelling story.
Wild is based on the true life tale of Cheryl Strayed, chronicled in her book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.
In a nutshell, she was awash in addiction, ruined her marriage by being a serial cheater and basically alienated anyone she knows and loves. With nothing to lose and no hope, she felt, for a future, she needed to head out into the Wild in an effort to find herself. Her journey goes far past the other self discovery movies we’ve seen in the past. This, all told, is a triumph of the human spirit story.
Vallee works his magic with a liberal use of a timeline. We meet Strayed as a young child, being brought up by a single mother (Laura Dern) and also as a woman in the process of getting divorced from her husband. This is all while Strayed is taking her journey through the rough and often perilous paths she hikes. But, it is through this walkabout that she will discover that these challenges she encounters on the Pacific Crest Trail are no tougher than what she has already triumphed over in her own life.
She is a living, breathing success story of perseverance. So, why can’t she complete this trek?
Witherspoon is astounding. There is no question that the Oscar winner for Walk the Line could be looking at another Best Actress trophy for Wild. She commands every scene and since she is in every minute of the movie, it’s hard not to notice that everything that Witherspoon has done up until this point in her career has led her on a path to being the best she can be in Wild.
This is not a typical character for the actress -- not that she plays a type truly. But, there is something about Strayed that is not that likable (at first) and that the actress portraying her has to build up affinity from her audience over the course of the movie that is no easy task. With Witherspoon it happens so organically it’s almost unnoticeable. There is a true arc of character that has to grow that lesser actresses could never master. Yet Witherspoon is awe-inspiring in her ability to channel Strayed, warts and all.
As you can see when you watch Dallas Buyers Club online, Vallee is a director who knows how to tell a true story where the audience is allowed to not simply be a witness, but an emotional participant. And what he does with the Strayed story is nothing short of a miracle. He manages to hit all the poignant notes that make us human, all while painting a portrait of a person who is discovering her humanity one step at a time.
Is it one of Witherspoon’s best? Check out our top 13 Reese Witherspoon movies in the slideshow below and see!