A lot of critics are comparing this movie to Eat, Pray, Love. I think it’s more like the female version of Into the Wild. Unfortunately watching it, you’ll feel like the character in 127 Hours. You just think it’s going on and on, and you’ll want to chop your arm off to escape it.
It’s the adaptation of the Cheryl Strayed memoir.
In the mid-90s, the 26-year-old decided to walk the entire Pacific Crest Trail, having never done a serious hike like that before. This comes after her mother (Laura Dern) dies from cancer, and spiraling out of control with lots of self-destructive behavior. So after cheating on a nice husband multiple times…she gets a tattoo with him, and spends 150 days walking through the Mojave desert, through snow, and all the way to Oregon.
The movie first screened here at the San Diego Film Festival months ago, but I missed that showing. I was watching it on DVD at 1 a.m. last night, and that certainly didn’t help things. Yet even if I weren’t tired, I don’t think I would’ve been as in love with this movie as critics have been. Reese Witherspoon is going to get an Oscar nomination she doesn’t deserve (and I felt she did deserve them for Walk the Line and Election). She was also good in Mud last year.
Screenwriter Nick Hornsby really disappointed me this time out. I loved An Education, About a Boy, and High Fidelity. I can’t say I was disappointed by director Jean-Marc Vallee, since he disappointed me tremendously with Dallas Buyers Club last year.
Witherspoon produced the movie, and had said she wanted to keep all the grimy and dirty elements. So, she’s one of many actresses lately getting praised for going without make-up and doing nude scenes. Not sure why an actor should be praised for doing that, but whatever. Not to mention the fact that Witherspoon is one of those rare people that looks almost the same without make-up. This isn’t like Charlize Theron in Monster.
The movie does have the same problem Eat, Pray, Love had. It’s about some sort of spiritual redemption, and never really nails that. You just don’t care about this character, which is kept at arms length. The story arc for her is rather weak.
The flashbacks felt manipulative and never worked. We hear classic rock songs on the soundtrack, and her mumbling Emily Dickenson. The whole thing made for a repetitive two hours of film watching.
For awhile, I liked Witherspoon underplaying her reactions. Yet there came a point where I wondered if perhaps she just doesn’t have much range in her acting ability.
The way the entire journey starts is perplexing, too. From all the flashbacks and craziness we see of her life, why was she so composed when starting on this trek? You would’ve guessed that she crawled out of a drug den and just started on the journey.
And why did everything that happened early on feel like something that only happens in movies? The hotel clerk that rudely inquires about the “other guest” that will be joining her later in the evening; or the boyfriend that can’t talk to her, because he’s cooking dinner for another girlfriend (yet he tries sneaking out of the room so he can).
In Into the Wild, I loved when the protagonist met up with Hal Holbrook’s character. Yet when we meet the farmer Cheryl Strayed comes across here…the script is written so poorly. We’re supposed to feel like he’s about to rape her, with the various questions he’s asking her. It was ridiculous.
Last year, the overrated movie that had a woman dealing with a survival and redemptive journey, was Gravity. Also a disappointing picture, but at least it was visually stunning. If you’re looking for a film this year where a woman goes on a journey like this, and does a bit more than just grimacing in the desert – seek out Tracks with Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver.
This just didn’t have enough interesting drama, and the edits made me feel at times, like I was watching a student film.
Even the casting of Laura Dern and Gaby Hoffman, playing the types of roles they always seem to play, was bugging me.
The touches of humor thrown in never really work, either.
The movie Wild…is actually rather tame.
It gets 1 ½ stars out of 5.