Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Review: Wild (2014)

       'Wild': A Biopic As Visceral As The Treacherous Territory On And Off The Pacific Coast Trail
   After watching this, I feel I have to give major props to Reese Witherspoon, who starred in/produced this and produced Gone Girl. If she didn't help bring those projects to the silver screen, then not only would we not have gotten this incredible journey of self-discovery, but we probably wouldn't have seen two of the most dynamic and complex female performances this year.

     Wild follows the true story of Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) who went on a long hike down the Pacific Coast Trail to rediscover herself after going through an ugly divorce as well as struggling with addiction after the tragic death of her mother (Laura Dern).

     I'll start off with the tour-de-force performance by Reese Witherspoon. I would say that she gives her best work since her breakout turn in Election, which is a complete 180 from this so she gets to showcase her impressive range as an actress. Yet interestingly she also gets to showcase the kind of charisma that made her a movie star and in the flashback scenes, she gets to add plenty of layers to her performance. For example, when Cheryl's mother Bobbi gets sick, Cheryl becomes more of a mother figure herself then after Bobbi's death, she becomes more of a reckless self-destructive cannon as she succumbs to addiction and sexual activity. But when Witherspoon is out on the trail, it feels as if she is molding the layers shown in the flashback sequences once she begins to reflect on or even relive them. This is a fully-dimensional and realized performance. While I am also on the subject of Bobbi, I also want to give a shoutout to Laura Dern's performance. Dern gives a rather poignant blend of both sunny and rainy as Bobbi is very cheerful on the surface despite her rough situation yet even though she shows off a wide smile, her eyes are filled with pain and sorrow. Despite not having a whole lot of screentime, Dern really leaves a mark when she is on screen.

      I also thought the cinematography by Yves Belanger was absolutely beautiful. I loved the shots of all the beautiful scenery on the PCT were very nice yet, like the flashback scenes that transport us to Cheryl's past, they had quite a bit of gritty realism. I figured that the PCT stuff would all be pretty glossy, but surprisingly no and both Belanger and director Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club) kept the film's tone consistent. But, I still liked that a lot. Plus, one of my favorite scenes in the film is the opening sequence where Cheryl is plucking a hangnail out of her bloodied big toe. That scene just gives you an idea of what kind of story you are in for. It is also a great example of how to write or open a screenplay since they say that when writing the first ten pages, you have to introduce the characters and give an idea of what the story is about. So in that opening scene, screenwriter Nick Hornby was able to establish the film's tone and setting, then once the film cuts to Cheryl being dropped off at a hotel about to start her journey where we are introduced to her.

    Now, there were a few points here and there where I thought the pacing was a little slow. But, to be fair, it can be pretty difficult to make a movie about a woman hiking for two hours seem fast-paced in my opinion.

   Overall, Wild is a beautifully directed yet no holds barred biopic that features a redefining performance by Reese Witherspoon. The cinematography is marvelous, the screenplay is spot-on, and watching the wilderness makes me want to take my own journey.

      Would I Recommend It?:
    Absolutely. I'd recommend it to Reese Witherspoon fans and anyone who wants to study screenwriting or cinematography as well as those who like movies.

Grade: A-