Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: Wild

Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: Wild

Article excerpt

Wild

15, Nationwide

Wild is yet another film based on a true story, as currently seems to be in vogue for some reason. (See The Imitation Game , Foxcatcher , The Theory of Everything , Testament of Youth etc.) Maybe the film world has run out of made-up stories, which was bound to happen sooner or later, as you can't just pluck them out of the air? I don't know. I can only tell you that this is the story of Cheryl Strayed who, after a series of personal struggles, opts to rebuild herself by walking 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mojave Desert to the Oregon/Washington border. This is a female on-the-road narrative, which should be cause for celebration in and of itself, as it's a genre that, going right back to The Odyssey , has never given women much of a look-in. But somehow Cheryl always feels at arm's length, plus it veers towards the Oprah -ish. I understood where she was coming from when she said, 'I am going to walk myself back to the woman my mother thought I was,' but I was still a little bit sick in my mouth.

Adapted by Nick Hornby from Strayed's memoir, and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club ), Wild stars Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl. This is Witherspoon's comeback, everyone is saying; her best performance since Walk the Line , which may be true, but it is certainly not her best film since then. It opens amid forested mountains -- Walk the Pines? -- with Cheryl panting up an incline under the weight of an absurdly huge rucksack. (A novice hiker, she didn't know what not to take.) She reaches the top and removes a boot to reveal a bloodied foot and loose toe nail, which she yanks off with a scream of agony. She then accidentally knocks the boot down into the ravine below and, in a fury, throws the other boot after it. Bit silly. No boots at all now. But this neatly shows us Cheryl: the anger, the pain, her defiance, and also her resourcefulness. She winds her feet in duct tape and presses on -- God love her.

The film then toggles between the past and present; between her journey today, with its dehydrated foods, rattlesnakes and (rather dead-end) encounters with kindly strangers and predatory males, to what has brought her here. The flashbacks show an abusive father, a heroin addiction, and the collapse of her own marriage, which she destroyed with a series of infidelities. …

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