Monday, March 16, 2015

Film Review: Wild (2014)

Copyright: Fox Searchlight Pictures
At some moments in this film, I felt that something very wrong is about to happen. For example, a woman all alone in a desert is about to jump across some large rocks. I was almost compelled to say out loud to the main character of this film:

“What are you doing, haven’t you seen the 127 Hours? Keep it up and you’ll have to cut off your hand with a pocket knife!”

This alone is a big cinematic achievement. In it, its director Jean-Marc Vallée made a devious pack with Nick Hornby, who wrote this screenplay. With Hornby’s talent for making sad tales engaging to a point where Disney went when they killed off Bambi’s mom, Vallée created an inspirational story which doesn’t state the obvious and doesn’t pamper us in happy-go-lucky feelings. Not all the way, at least.

The tale, based on the true adventures of Cheryl Strayed, a woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail accompanied only by uncomfortable shoes and some camping gear, is really unique. In it, this trail, which wasn’t really famous outside the die-hard hiking community, plays an equally important role as the main character. Its beauty and indifference are stunning, captivating, and perfect for Vallée to transform it into a mirror for the protagonist, who is in a deep spiritual, emotional and personal crisis.

Cheryl is played by Reese Witherspoon who acts her heart out and it really shows. Along with Hornby’s writing, she made sure that her character didn’t become some bland heroine who is determined to show the nature who is the boss. Instead, her Cheryl is someone who is much realer and a lot faultier than the average nature conqueror.

But, while Wild is a very stunning movie that draws you in a very poetic way, I was really impressed with the director’s readiness to make the film more gritty. Using frantic editing and cuts, he obviously became even more advanced in his trade since he made Dallas Buyers Club.

Still, I feel underneath that underneath all of the grandeur and greatness, there is still that sticky touch of Nick Hornby. While films like All Is Lost have that moment where the viewer is captivated and terrified by the collision of nature with a single human being, throughout this film, there is the slightest but the constant feel of that undercover Disney approach Hornby does so well.

This is why the film forced a verbal ending and few epilogue-type sentences on how all of this fits together, ignoring the fact that it could have ended without it. But then, in that case, the audience might be just a bit less satisfied and a bit more confused, and Hornby just couldn’t let that happen.