Monday, July 18, 2016
Wild (2014 film)
Based on the memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, Wild is the story of a troubled woman who decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail to cope with loss, her divorce, and other issues as a way to reflect on her life. Directed and co-edited by Jean-Marc Vallee and screenplay by Nick Hornby, the film is a look into a woman trying to find redemption as she takes on a major challenge as it’s a dramatic take on Strayed’s real-life story with Reese Witherspoon playing the role of Cheryl Strayed. Also starring Thomas Sadoski, Michael Huisman, Gaby Hoffman, and Laura Dern. Wild is an entrancing and riveting film from Jean-Marc Vallee.
The film revolves around Cheryl Strayed’s 94-day journey in hiking the Pacific Coast Trail as she deals with the death of her mother, a divorce, and her descent into drug addiction where she tries to find herself again. It’s a film that has a simple plot yet it is more about a woman trying to take this challenge after hitting bottom in her life as she reflects not just the passing of her mother Bobbi (Laura Dern) but also the events that lead to her own troubles as she nearly killed herself through addiction. Nick Hornby’s script has a back-and-forth reflective narrative where Strayed looks back in her life as she thinks about the life she had with her mother whom she adores but also how it fell apart when she died. During the course of her journey on the trail, Strayed deal with her inexperience as well as getting some of the wrong equipment and other challenges as it seemed like she wouldn’t succeed. Still, she finds a way while also thinking about her own faults as she does get packages from her ex-husband Paul (Thomas Sadoski) during her stops on the trail.
Jean-Marc Vallee’s direction is mesmerizing not just for the fact that it was shot on location in the many spots of the Pacific Crest Trail but also create something that feels natural. Also shot in locations around California and Oregon, Vallee creates many of the flashback scenes with a sense of intimacy with its usage of close-ups and medium shots from Strayed’s time of happiness with her mother and the early years of her marriage to Paul as well as her descent into heroin addiction and promiscuous sex. The scenes set on the trail has Vallee using more wide shots to establish the locations while going for something that feels real as if the audience is along for the journey.
The usage of hand-held cameras, high and low angles as well as compositions that play into something real definitely adds some weight to what Strayed is encountering. Even as there are these moments that play into her own grief where she would see her mother or something that is symbolic. All of which play into a journey that a woman has to take in the need to move on in the next phase of her life. Overall, Vallee creates a fascinating yet evocative film about a woman taking on a personal journey to find herself again.
Cinematographer Yves Berlanger does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the naturalistic and colorful look of the exterior locations in the trail along with some lighting for some scenes in the cities as well as some lights for some scenes at night including naturalistic lights on the trail. Editors Jean-Marc Vallee, in his John Mac McMurphy pseudonym, and Martin Pensa do excellent work with the editing with its stylish montages for some of Strayed‘s flashbacks as well as some jump-cuts and other cuts to play into the drama. Production designer John Paino, with set decorator Robert Covelman and art director Javiera Varas, does nice work with the look of the motels and places Strayed has been in as well as her family home with her mother and some of the places on the trail.
Costume designer Melissa Bruning does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with a lot of the look play into the period of the mid-90s which the film is set in. Visual effects supervisors Marc Cote and Jean-Francois Ferland does some fine work with the visual effects as it‘s mainly set dressing along with the design of a few animals that Strayed would encounter. Sound editors Mildred Iatrou and Ai-Ling Lee do superb work with the sound as it play into the natural elements of the locations as well as some of the textures of things that Strayed hears in the flashbacks. Music supervisor Susan Jacobs creates a fantastic soundtrack that features an array of music from Stevie Ray Vaughn, Paul McCartney & Wings, Leonard Cohen, the Shangri-Las, Free, Portishead, Billy Shaw, Lucinda Williams, the Hollies, Bruce Springsteen, Pat Methany Group, Elvis Presley, and Simon & Garfunkel.
The casting of David Rubin is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Art Alexakis of Everclear as a tattoo artist, Mo McRae as a reporter who mistakes Cheryl as a hobo, Cliff DeYoung as a man at a trail stop who helps Cheryl find the right equipment, Cathryn de Prume as a hiker who is also walking the trail that Cheryl befriends, Bobbi Lindstrom Strayed as the young Cheryl, Jason Newell as Cheryl’s alcoholic father in the flashbacks, W. Earl Brown as a construction worker who gives Cheryl a place to crash for a day, Jan Hoag as the construction worker’s wife, Ray Buckley as Cheryl’s junkie lover, and the real Cheryl Strayed as the woman who would drop Cheryl off at the beginning of the film. Other noteworthy small roles include Brian Van Holt as a park ranger who lets Cheryl get her package late in the film, Michael Huisman as a man Cheryl meets and sleeps with in Oregon during a stop late in the trail, and Kevin Rankin as a fellow hiker who is also on the trail that helps Cheryl find her way.
Gaby Hoffmann is superb as Cheryl’s friend Aimee who would be one of the few that Cheryl would contact during her trail as well as be the one to call her out in the flashbacks on her self-destructive behavior. Keene McRae is terrific as Cheryl’s younger brother Leif who is seen in flashbacks as someone who has a hard time losing his mother as he often couldn’t face it while having to do something that would add more pain to him and Cheryl. Thomas Sadoski is excellent as Cheryl’s ex-husband Paul who is seen as a bitter man that was mistreated in the flashbacks only to become someone reluctant to help Cheryl out in sending packages. Laura Dern is incredible as Cheryl’s mother Bobbi as a free-spirited woman who is the one person that Cheryl treasures more than anyone until she becomes ill as she would be a spirit to help her daughter. Finally, there’s Reese Witherspoon in a phenomenal performance as Cheryl Strayed as a troubled woman whose descent into addiction and self-destruction would force her to make a change by taking the challenge of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Witherspoon’s performance is definitely a marvel to watch in the way she struggles with her inexperience in camping but also present a physicality and drive that is key to the performance as it is one of Witherspoon’s finest achievements.
Wild is a remarkable film from Jean-Marc Vallee that features great performances from Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. It’s a film that isn’t just about a woman taking on a major challenge but it’s also a film that explores a woman dealing with grief and disappointment as she tries to find redemption in her journey. In the end, Wild is a sensational film from Jean-Marc Vallee.
Jean-Marc Vallee Films: (Black List) - (Los Locos) - (Loser Love) - (C.R.A.Z.Y.) - The Young Victoria - (Café de Flore) - Dallas Buyers Club - Demolition (2015 film) - (Big Little Lies (TV miniseries))
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