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Reese Witherspoon in Wild

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Reese Witherspoon is spectacular (and Oscar nominated) as Cheryl Strayed, whose memoir Wild is based on. The book is partly autobiography and partly the story of her six month trek of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to Oregon. That she walked the trail isn’t as impressive – it’s been done by many people – as the fact that she walked it alone with very, very little hiking experience. The film and the book also explain why doing this is so powerfully cathartic to Cheryl; she has just extracted herself from a failed marriage, an addiction to heroin and some extravagantly self-destructive habits that seem to have been a failed coping mechanism to deal with the grief over losing her mother.

While Cheryl walks and hikes and gets blisters and nearly starves and narrowly escapes rape and hypothermia, her earlier life is shown in flashbacks, many of which feature a luminous Laura Dern as Cheryl’s mother.

Director Jean-Marc Valée’s great work should be praised and rewarded, but Witherspoon and Dern are why the film is so moving. Cheryl’s experience, from grief to pride and from shame to redemption, is vast, and Witherspoon portrays the shifts, the details and ugly honesty of it all. Her versatility and charisma in this role remarkable; it’s much more impressive than the work in Walk the Line that actually got her an Oscar. Dern is even better. As Cheryl’s ridiculously cheerful mother – cheerful despite poverty, despite a violent husband, despite cancer – Dern is heroic and ecstatic and as beautiful as any of the nature beauty on the Pacific Crest Trail.

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Posted by on Mar 26, 2015. Filed under DVD of the Week. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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