Sometimes, little things make all the difference because life is but an endless series of little details. If there’s one thing we’ve noticed from watching “Wild“, it’s the level of attention that director Jean-Marc Vallée paid in this movie. Depending on what the directors choose to focus on and how they want to explain the little things in a movie, some directors try to emphasise or focus on a certain aspect while others try to make the central character as mysterious and unpredictable as possible.
As for “Wild”, the director’s attention to detail set the movie apart from the other self-discovery movies. The “Dallas Buyers Club” director helmed the biographical drama film based on Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”. He teamed up with Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon and Academy Award nominated screenwriter Nicky Hornby to bring the extraordinary adventure of the bestselling author to the silver screen.
Though slightly lacklustre, “Wild” marks a great comeback for Witherspoon, especially after the “Legally Blonde” actress suffered a career slump. She portrayed Cheryl Strayed, a woman who lost her sense of self after the death of her mother Bobbi (played by Academy Award nominee Laura Dern) Haunted by memories of her late mother, she ruined her marriage as she becomes addicted to heroin and sex. This went on for years until she finally realised that her reckless behaviour is destroying her.
Everyone deals with their personal struggles in many different ways, but not everyone can afford to look for solace by travelling around the world like Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love“. Strayed made a rather impromptu decision as she decided to hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) without any hiking experience. The movie chronicled her journey along the trail, including some friendly encounters with the other hikers, a casual hook up with a man in a small town, and some creepy encounters with a snake and the hunters. It is a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her as she revealed her terrors and pleasures.
Most of Strayed’s chance encounters with the strangers were included in the film, but her older sister and stepfather were purposely left out for dramatic purposes. Though the pacing of the movie is slow, it allowed the director to include the strangers who motivated her to finish the trail, including an obnoxious journalist who addressed her as a female hobo and the creepy hunters whom she met in the wood. In the novel, it was noted that Greg the hiker was the one who inspired her to keep going, but he received very little screen time. Perhaps it was only fair for the director to do so because there were so many interesting stories to be told about Strayed a.k.a “The Queen of PCT”.
“Wild” is also a visual stunner because cinematographer Yves Bélanger created a beautiful colour palette to match the views along California and Oregon trail. If it wasn’t for Strayed’s journey, we wouldn’t be able to marvel at the breathtakingly beautiful scenery. Taking cues from the book, the setting further helped to influence other elements of the movie as the director was able to develop the protagonist’s flashback into her emotional past.
The story went back and forth in time so that we can learn more about the key moments of Strayed’s life. For example, there was a scene that explained the meaning of her arm tattoo while another scene explained why she insisted on bringing her series of Flannery O’Connor short stories during her journey. Witherspoon stepped into the movie completely make-up free, which illustrates how Strayed actually looked like during her journey. Did I feel emotionally attached to the character? No, not really. However, there’s no denying that Witherspoon has created yet another award-winning role for herself, alongside Laura Dern. She is calm and collective, but when the film reached a climax, she brought Strayed’s personalities to life.
Witherspoon talked to herself very often in the movie, depicting Strayed’s real struggles as she undertook the Herculean journey. “Wild” elicited a certain kind of emotion from the audience, particularly from those who can feel Strayed’s struggles. The plot is inventive and unpredictable, but other than her encounters with the strangers, I felt that it was slightly draggy and boring. There were some plot holes that I felt the scriptwriter decided to ignore, so perhaps it will require the audience to watch it for the second time or ignore it as well. The movie was a little choppy, not only because the explicit sex scenes were removed by Malaysia’s film board, but also because there were too many flashback scenes. Of course, I’m just nitpicking.
Although “Wild” is set to be a must-see movie for everyone, I don’t think everyone is going to appreciate this movie as much as other movie connoisseurs. If I were to recite a quote from the “Birdman” movie, it has to be this:
People, they love blood. They love action. Not this talky, depressing, philosophical bullshit.
I’d still highly recommend people to watch it because this could be one of those movies that teaches people how to let go of their past. Even though I don’t feel emotionally attached to the character, her journey is definitely eye-opening experience for all.
Written by Hornby, “Wild” is produced by Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea, and Bill Pohlad. Witherspoon also stars in the movie alongside Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Michiel Huisman, and Gaby Hoffmann.
Watch the trailer here:
“Wild” is slated for release on 12th March 2015 at selected GSC outlets including GSC Mid Valley, GSC Pavilion KL, GSC 1 Utama, and GSC Gurney Plaza.