“… there are lots of people on this earth that can look at this story and find something that connects to them, unfortunately I am not one of those people.”
Wild is a movie starring Reese Witherspoon about a woman (Cheryl Strayed) who decides re-gain control of her life by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which runs from the border of Mexico all the way up to Canada. Much to my surprise this is a true story about the actual Cheryl Strayed who wrote a book about her adventure. This puts me in a bit of a predicament because if I insult the character I would in turn be insulting the person, which I don’t want to do. So just keep in mind that even though I will say things about the “character” of Cheryl Strayed, I am only talking about what I saw presented to me in the film, and not the actual person.
To begin this review I want to say that the movie just wasn’t really for me. Objectively it was well shot, the scenery was beautiful, the acting was great, but that doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t really connect to me. A large part of that was the character and how she was presented. Wild is a story that is told through flashbacks, so we are presented to the character while she is well on her way on the PCT, and then we have to piece together exactly why she ended up there through a series of flashbacks. The way these flashbacks are presented is very clever (if it was intentional) because it made me hate the character of Cheryl Strayed, but then converted me to feel sorry for her. This is a great feat for a story to accomplish, but unfortunately the rest of the story wasn’t there to back it up. I like to look at it this way: This story is a very personal story for Cheryl Strayed. Sure, there are lots of people on this earth that can look at this story and find something that connects to them, unfortunately I am not one of those people. That is not to diminish the story itself, it is just to say that it didn’t really resonate with me the way it would with others, or with Cheryl Strayed herself. One thing that I really admired about the movie was the structuring of the flashbacks. There is very much a “stream of consciousness” feel to how everything is presented to the audience. Cheryl would be hiking and then we will her audio from a memory that she is having, then we will see the memory in full, but then it will switch to another memory that isn’t really related to us but you can see why it would come up next in the mind of the character. That, mixed with the brilliant voice-over work that allowed us to hear the characters thoughts, really connected me to the character on a level that the movie otherwise wouldn’t have. Going back to the fact that I couldn’t relate to the character at the beginning of the movie, the pacing seemed really slow until about halfway through (when more of the “story” was revealed through flashbacks). I would have to go back and watch the movie again to see if the pacing really was slow or if it was just because I wasn’t a fan of the character, but either way if you watch this movie for the first time prepared to be drifting in and out of attention. Another thing that allowed me to sympathize with the character was the use of music. We (as the audience) would hear music (presumably because Cheryl was trying to keep herself busy), then we would maybe see a flashback that explains Cheryl’s connection with the music, but then the music would start again almost as if Cheryl had either lost her place in the song or didn’t know the words to continue. There was also a time when she started changing the lyrics to the song to fit her current predicament which is definitely something that I am guilty of doing. And of course the song choices were wonderful, with a majority of them being by Simon and Garfunkel. I guess past all of that would be the acting, which I thought was great. It was a little weird to see Reese Witherspoon play a character in High school as well as a character that is almost 30, but her performance made up for it. Laura Dern was great as Cheryl’s mother, as were all of the “supporting” characters in the film.
Overall Wild is a story that was well told, but honestly just wasn’t for me.
I give Wild a C