Wild (A sort of review)

I am trying to make my way through as many Oscar nominated films as I can before the ceremony airs on February 22, but due to time and budget constraints, I am having to make some hard choices. Then there is the certainty that I apparently wasted my time watching Interstellar, Mockingjay part 1, and the third Hobbit movie. At least Rosamund Pike was nominated for Gone Girl. That’s something I guess. Now you know why I am not a gambler.

I saw Wild the other day, and I am all the better for it. It’s not that I didn’t want to, I have heard many good things about Wild, but it wasn’t my first choice. I was going to see it at some point since I am a huge fan of Nick Hornby, for it was he that adapted the screenplay from the book by Cheryl Strayed. I am pleased that I saw it in a theatre, albeit a tiny one, because Wild deserves to be seen on a big screen. Cinematographer Yves Belanger used natural light to illustrious effect. I don’t want to be trite and say, “It’s like really being there,” conversely, I don’t want to give the impression that it looks like a home movie.

While I am waxing peoples cars, I might as well give a shout out to director Jean-Marc Vallee. I haven’t seen Dallas Buyers Club yet, but it’s on my list. Vallee also performed a balancing act going from the scenes on the Pacific Crest Trail and the flashbacks. I think at some point in the film Reese Witherspoon, who plays Cheryl Strayed, hit damn near every emotion possible. I think she deserved the Oscar nomination. Having not seen Cake, I cannot comment on Jennifer Aniston’s performance, but there are some that think she should have received a nom over Witherspoon, as if the Academy only has room for one “deglammed” performance per annum.

Wild is the tale of Cheryl Strayed’s 1,100 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from the Mexican border in California to the Canadian border in Washington. Along the way, there are flashbacks to various points in Cheryl’s life, and it seems that things weren’t so great. There are fond memories of her mother, Bobbi, played by Laura Dern in an Oscar nominated role. Bobbi’s death from cancer sends Cheryl into deep grief, which she deals with, or doesn’t, depending on your point of view, by taking copious amounts of drugs, and having sex with what seems like every dude that she meets.

Some people have a problem with the way that the story of Wild is told. It’s told in a way that a lot of people recall memories, that is to say the hiking part is linear, while the flashbacks often aren’t. It’s like when someone tells a story at dinner party, then suddenly remembers that they have to relate another event in order to put things in context. It’s one thing to say a story in this fashion out loud, or write it down, it’s another to do it visually, and give Vallee full marks for being able to pull it off in an era when some people are obsessive about three act structure. That, and the “hero’s journey.” Wild is about a journey from point A to point B, it just takes a few detours along the way.

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