Monday, December 29, 2014

Movie Review: "Wild" (2014)

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Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Following the death of her mother, Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) has sunken into depression, drug addiction, and a promiscuous lifestyle. After destroying her marriage and hitting rock bottom with an unplanned pregnancy and not knowing who the father is, Cheryl decides to turn her life around, and she knows just how to do it. She heads off on a journey of self-discovery on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), where she is going to walk over 1,000 miles alone through the desert and mountains, despite having little to no hiking experience. Based on a true story.

After seeing the trailer for this movie over the course of several months, we assumed this film would basically be Reese Witherspoon taking a walk, and it is, but not in the way you'd expect. It's actually much better than that. As we mentioned in the synopsis, this movie is about self-discovery and redemption, but also about coming to terms with what you cannot change in life no matter how hard you try. A friend of ours who saw the movie with us brought up an excellent point. This entire film is an allegory for death itself. When a loved one dies, you must learn to accept help from others, even if you don't want to do so. Everyone deals with grief in their own way. You can be immature about it and act out irrationally, but in the end, you're only hurting yourself because you're really hurting inside. By accepting help from others on her journey, Cheryl was able to complete her hiking mission where she probably would have otherwise failed. The hike itself is a physical manifestation of her emotional problems, from sex with strangers and cheating on her husband to descending into a drug and alcohol problem, all of which stem from the death of her mother, who was "the love of her life."

Reese Witherspoon puts on a brilliantly fantastic performance as Cheryl Strayed as she braves so many different elements emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually and naturally. We really understand her character's fears, both in the wild and during her life's trials. We empathize with her loss and her hardship not just afterwards, but during her hike as well. We had the same thoughts as she did on screen, like "is this random person a murderer or rapist?," "am I going to find water today?," "will I die out here?," "when can I get the proper supplies so I don't die out here?," and most importantly, "how much longer is this going to take!?" BigJ and I are not hikers, but we can imagine we'd have way less success than she did with such an undertaking. The scenery and the beauty of the Pacific Crest Trail's wilderness made us almost yearn to be hikers, but seeing her struggles and breakdowns every single day also made us glad that we're not hikers, because we would have most certainly died. This movie makes you cry in one scene and then cringe as she rips off her toenail in another. It makes you happy that she keeps on keeping on during her journey, and then makes you regret it when she poops in a hole or runs out of water. The emotional and physical responses this movie elicits are palpable, and this is all due to the wonderful direction by Jean-Marc Vallée. The way he chose to break the movie into two separate parts, her present journey and flashbacks from throughout Cheryl's life, was a smart decision that paid off in the end because we as an audience can look back on and feel our own experiences through watching her past and present experiences on the PCT. Our one gripe about the movie is that, though she was dirty looking, Cheryl never truly looked dirty enough throughout the movie.

All in all, we really enjoyed this film and the many stages of how it made us think about our lives through Cheryl's experience. Reese Witherspoon gives a wonderful, award winning performance, and the cinematography, direction and screenplay adaptation are all excellent.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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