“God is a ruthless bitch.”
A film about someone who decides to go down the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) just to come to terms with herself after living a turbulent life. At first sight it seemed to me that this subject was a bit too feeble for creating an entertaining movie. To some extent that’s true, but at the same time, this was nonetheless a touching and sometimes quite moving film. This notorious 4286 kilometer long footpath, situated in the West of the USA and running along the highest parts of the Sierra Nevada, definitely isn’t for beginners. And yet Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) packed her backpack and without any preparation she started this eerie trip.
Firstly you can foresee that this could be a fairly monotonous film. One individual all alone in the wild nature. Only occasionally she has brief encounters with people who cross her path. Each with their own backstory and motivation. Actually it’s a bit like “All is lost” with Robert Redford drifting on the wide ocean in his sailboat. He was also completely alone and abandoned. Or recently you could see the expedition members in “Everest” who experienced a worst case scenario. They were (although it was a larger group) totally isolated on this mountaintop. You already know in advance that you’ll witness how this person laboriously drags herself through a desert landscape and other wastelands, meanwhile holding monologues due to the lack of other interlocutors. And the shown images of nature are extraordinarily beautiful.
What impressed me the most in “Wild” was Reese’s acting. For me, Reese’s alter ego Elle Woods still haunts her. I’ll always associate her with that dumb-looking blonde who started to study law in “Legally Blonde” and afterwards created a stir in court. What I still can remember, are the decisive arguments she came up with and where the evidence was related to make-up and hairstyle related techniques. These trivialities made sure she won the case. And lets not forget her pink outfit for God’s sake and her yapping puppy in matching clothes. And then there were these sorority girlfriends who, when counted together, wouldn’t add up to a decent IQ. I always get the chronic diarrhea when watching such movies. But this stands in sharp contrast to how she performs here. A scarred woman who travels with an overloaded backpack, but also drags along a heavy burden on her shoulders. And she wants to get rid of that once and for all.
Jean-Marc Vallée, who also directed the brilliant film “Dallas Buyers Club”, managed to create a fascinating mixture of drama and humor. “Wild” is constantly interrupted by flashbacks in which we get to know Cheryl’s mother. A pugnacious person who ,despite setbacks in her life, remains a paragon of positivism. A brilliant interpretation by Laura Dern (better known as the female archaeologist who was being chased by dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park”). She clearly passed that attitude to Cheryl. After a self-destructive life of drugs and uncontrolled sex, Cheryl tries to put her life back on track figuratively, by literally walking the PCT path. It’s kind of her personal calvary in this “road movie on foot”. A beautiful film that is alternately touching, painful and funny. A demonstration of endurance, perseverance and willpower. A film in which Reese Witherspoon knows how to keep herself perfectly upright, despite the monstrous-looking backpack that brings her off balance every time. Respect!