Wild opens today in select theaters. Here is my original review from TIFF.
As director Jean-Marc Valleé proved in Dallas Buyer’s Club, a straight-white-savior-during-the-AIDS-epidemic story that unforgivably made me not hate Jared Leto for a few minutes,Valleé has a talent for taking what should be unwatchable awards-pandering drivel and making it into a pretty damned watchable movie. Wild doesn’t have quite the sexy, sensationalist appeal of Dallas Buyer’s Club, or Matthew McConaughey losing 40 pounds and having freaky AIDS sex at a needle exchange, but once again, Valleé has taken a movie that shouldn’t be very good and made it mostly okay. It’s the kind of movie that makes me want to say “good job,” but also… “why?”
Wild stars Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed, and if Reese hadn’t already won an Oscar for Walk The Line, I’d say this role pulls out all the stops – nudity, drug abuse, affirmation, triumphs over adversity both physical and emotional accompanied by copious voiceover and flashback. Just as McConaughey went un-nominated after incredible turns in Magic Mike, Killer Joe, and Mud, and couldn’t get a statue until he pretended to die of AIDS, Reese Witherspoon was passed over for Tracy Flick and Legally Blonde (don’t laugh, she was great in it) and was only recognized once she took the role of historical figure in a perfectly middlebrow geezer-nip musician biopic. Which is to say, I don’t blame the actors for the way they are, the awards committees have made them this way.
Anyway, Witherspoon’s Strayed (who wrote the memoir that forms the basis of Wild) has had a rough time of it of late, getting into needle drugs and freaky-deaky sex after the passing of her mom (played by Jurassic Park’s original clever girl Laura Dern). In an attempt to get her life back together/put together an awesome book proposal, she sets out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, alone, in a sort of combination Eat, Pray, Love/Into the Wild journey of self-discovery. “I’m going to walk myself back into the woman my mother thought I was,” she says.
On the eve of her big journey, Strayed calls her ex-husband, The Newsroom’s Thomas Sadoski (a much more enjoyable actor when he’s not spewing Sorkin smugisms). Sympathetic, he tells her, “Anyway, I’m sorry you have to do this.”
“Do what?” She asks.
“Walk 1,000 miles to… to…” he falters.
“To what? Finish that sentence. Why do I have to walk 1,000 miles?” she asks. At which point it took every ounce of restraint in my body not to shout “TO FALL DOWN AT YOUR DOOR! …DADAT NAAA! (DADAT NAAAA!) DADAT NAAA! (DADAT NAAAA!) …DUDA DUNN DUDA DUNN DUDA DUNN DAA DAA…” in a room full of TIFF journalists.