In Wild, Reese Witherspoon gives a powerful performance as Cheryl Strayed, a woman who hiked 1,000 miles from the Mexico border to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995 in order to slay her demons. Reese portrayed a damaged woman who, to get some of her humanity back, felt the need to hike this trail. Trust me when I say this, but we have never seen Reese in a role like this before, and she knocks it out of the park.
We are thrown into the action from the beginning, and through flashbacks we learn about her struggles, her life, and ultimately, her motivations. Through her drug riddled past, and struggles growing up in poverty, we get to know the real Cheryl and learn about what strayed her away from her path (no pun intended). From her failed marriage to her many sexual affairs, we learn what drives her.
The script, along with Reese, is able to create a complex character who, through her many flaws, still urges the audience to sympathize with her. And the character isn’t necessarily asking for sympathy, but she just wants us to understand how she ended up how she did, and through that journey we do end up sympathizing with her.
Not everybody will be able to completely relate with this character because I doubt many of us have gone through what she had, but we will be able to hang onto certain personality traits and certain emotions that the character feels, and a lot of that has to do with the way Reese portrays the character. Hopefully in the future she will pursue more roles like this, and less roles like “This Means War.”
In one flashback scene, Reese is laying on a bed, high out of her mind, and resting her foot on a man’s chest as he injects a heroin needle into her ankle. That scene, along with numerous others, demonstrate range and ability that Reese has not shown in a long time, in fact, this might just be her best role since Walk the Line.
Reese’s performance is getting a lot of buzz, and it is well deserved, however, Laura Dern deserves her share of acclaim as Cheryl’s beautifully damaged mother, who, on the surface may be dancing and singing in the kitchen while preparing dinner, but underneath it all, she knows everything that is going on around her and the situation she is in. She just wants to pass this trait onto her daughter and her son, and Dern portrays this complex and damaged character perfectly. I would not mind if she was given a supporting actress nomination.
Overall, Wild was a good film, but the only aspect of the film that failed was that it never really sucked me in. I appreciated the performances and the premise, but too often during the film I found myself thinking about other things and zoning out rather than focusing on what was going on on screen. Other than that, I would recommend this film, strictly for the performances alone.