** SPOILERS **
There's a moment in Wild when Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) decides to set out on her fateful course and hike the 1,100 mile Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican to the Canadian border. "I'm gonna walk my myself back to the woman my mother raised me to be." Her friend Gaby Hoffman replies really the only reply one can make when hearing something like that: "What?" Why would anyone spend over three months walking over a thousand miles alone through the desert, mountains, forest, and snow? Wild, directed by Jean-Marc Vallee and produced by Witherspoon based upon the best-selling memoir by Strayed, straps us along Witherspoon's back on a stunning, remarkable journey.
In a courageous and raw performance, Witherspoon is sensational as Cheryl Strayed, a divorced, aimless woman (don't call her a hobo, as we learn in Wild's most hilarious scene) who lost her mother (Laura Dern) to cancer. "She was the love of my life," Strayed confesses, and the death of her mother sent Strayed into a spiral of heroin and promiscuous sex that ruined her marriage to her husband Paul (played by Thomas Sadowski). Strayed sets out on a soul-searching journey across California, Oregon, and Washington State, hefting a backpack of camping and wilderness supplies so enormous, the petite Witherspoon herself could fit inside it. She encounters stunning natural beauty, rugged terrain, a few kind souls, some potentially dangerous men who thankfully don't attack her as she fears, and most importantly, Strayed finds herself and the solace she sought.
The emotional journey of Strayed as well as her physical, laborious trek are intertwined by provocative directing and masterful editing, working from a delicate yet sharp screenplay adaptation by Nick Hornby. Though it all, Witherspoon effusively anchors Wild, appearing in every scene, calling upon all of her Oscar-caliber talents to portray Strayed as a confused, lost, hurting, hopeful, triumphant person. Wild is one of the best films of 2014; it is bravura filmmaking and its trail will hopefully end at some deserved Academy Awards. Or at the very least, everyone involved in Wild should benefit from a lifetime supply of REI camping equipment as thanks for all of the brilliant advertising.
- and @CherylStrayed. #WildMovie @RWitherspoon pic.twitter.com/7CwCwPYBpJ
— John Orquiola (@BackoftheHead) January 5, 2015