People try to find themselves in an unknown number of ways. They change careers. They travel. They write a movie blog (heh heh). Then there is the ever popular running away. Disconnect and abandon your life and embark on a sort of vision quest. That was Cheryl Strayed preferred method of self-discovery. It is a quest detailed in WILD. Based on Strayed’s book of the same name it stars Reese Witherspoon as Strayed. WILD details her three month hike of the Pacific Crest Trail from Mojave to the south to Mount Hood in the north. Strayed’s life was certainly in need of some vision questing. She was kicking heroin, she was divorced and a few years earlier her mother died at the way too young age of 45. This is a woman in serious need of a new direction. So she left her life behind and set out to find herself on a thousand mile hike. Witherspoon is absolutely fantastic. This is not a role filled with pretty dresses and perfect makeup. She is sweaty, dirty, beaten, bruised and battered along the way. But in her lonely months on the trail, she seems more present in life than she ever did back in civilization. Witherspoon’s acting chops combined with an excellent story make Wild a treat to watch. Jean-Marc Vallee did such a fantastic job with DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, setting Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto up for Oscars he obviously knows how to get the most out of his actors. Same here with Witherspoon and Laura Dern (both nominated for Oscars). The script by Nick Hornby is clever and dramatic with the right amount of humor thrown in. But there are holes in the narrative that you could drive a truck through. Strayed’s brother, her abusive father are just kinda thrown in and the timeline is never fully clear except on the trail. The scenery is beautiful from the deserts in the south to the mountains and forests up north, it is a picture postcard for the PCT. But it is Witherspoon who makes the material rise above just “good” to wonderful. This is the best thing I’ve ever seen her do and it is also good to see a meaty, gritty female role. WILD didn’t get any love as a best picture contender and I get that. But Witherspoon deserves the Oscar if she wins it. WILD is worth two hours of your time just for her performance. — Alan Yudman


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