Wow. 2014 has definitely had its moments. It's really ironic that I go from watching Unbroken to watching Wild. Wild and Unbroken have basically the same theme: they are stories of the will and determination of the human spirit. And yet, they are told in entirely different ways. In Unbroken's case, it was told in an average way, and with a poor delivery from its lead. But in Wild's case, it is told in a damn near perfect way. Simply remarkable. I honestly recommend watching both of these movies consecutively like I did, watching Unbroken first and Wild second. Then you'll see firsthand how to ineffectively shoot a feel-good flick versus effectively shoot one. God I love this movie. Let's dive into it, shall we?
So, what did I say in Unbroken about acting? That a movie that is essentially a biopic is only as good as its lead, right? Ya I know I said it cause I just wrote the review. Well here, Reese Witherspoon is INCREDIBLE. She puts in what is, in my opinion, the best performance of the year by an actress. It's a close one between her and Julianne Moore from Still Alice, but I think Witherspoon has her beat. Her performance is incredibly grounded, emotional, and real as the lead, Cheryl, and she more than holds her own for the entire movie. And she is asked to do a lot here. Most of this movie, it's just her and her thoughts. Through a series of clever voiceovers and flashbacks, we discover a lot about this character, as well as her motivation behind why she, an incredibly unexperienced hiker, would decide to hike the 1,100 mile Pacific Coast Trail. But don't worry. Witherspoon is not to be outdone by another great performance in this movie. This one is from Laura Dern. She puts in a surprisingly great performance as Cheryl's mom, Bobbi. Some even say this performance is better than the performance of Witherspoon. However, I am not one of those people. But she is still fantastic in the limited scenes she has throughout the 115 minute movie.
The story is a simple one. We follow Witherspoon's character Cheryl and her fight with the Pacific Coast Trail. The movie wastes no time with this premise, throwing you straight into this journey while giving you this character's backstory through a series of very clever and rather unpredictable flashbacks. It doesn't take long for you to begin to sympathize and root for Cheryl. Despite the fact that her character did some pretty despicable things before hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, her reasoning for doing them is actually understandable. And you get to understand her motivations throughout the course of the movie. It is a simple yet elegant premise, and the movie could not execute the premise any better than it did. The editing was fantastic. Some of the best I've seen in 2014, the editing of Wild was great as we cut back and forth between flashbacks and present moment. The editing was entirely responsible for making the cuts very unpredictable. We even had a few scenes of Cheryl looking at adversity on her journey in the present and how it relates to her past life where we saw these two scenes occur simultaneously, and it worked thanks entirely to the editing. I have one problem with this movie. Usually if I have a single problem with a film I'll still give it a perfect score, but this problem does dock my score down half a point. The problem is this: sometimes, actually it occurred quite often, the scenes were so quick it was hard to register as the viewer what had just happened. Particularly in the second act. Now, I understand that the pace of this movie was meant to be quick, but I really wish there had been another 20 minutes of film to help the viewer truly appreciate the adversity Cheryl faced throughout her journey. That said, this is a damn good film, and one you should absolutely put on your list to see as soon as humanely possible.
The Critique: Reese Witherspoon shines in Wild. A gripping story and fantastic editing leads to a near-perfect film.
The Recommendation; A must-see for everyone, particularly those who like films associated with nature. But there is definitely something here for everyone.
The Verdict: 9.5/10 Damn Near Perfect.
Oscar Talk: I want to say Witherspoon deserves an Oscar for her performance, but we'll see. I'll have my Oscar discussion in the coming weeks!