Wild Screen 14 articles



Wild Poster
  • Vallée’s film is tasteless. He has no gift for framing, timing, movement, or the choreography of actors, and his sense of performance runs toward the obvious, toward the easy scoring of simple and unequivocal emotion. That may be why he’s an Oscar-maker. Witherspoon is a fine actress who, here, never seems to cut loose—either from the overly limiting script or from Vallée’s monotonous direction.

  • Atom Egoyan circa 1994 might have been able to do something worthwhile with the material, what with its incremental reveal of past traumas that continually reframe the murkiness of the present. Vallée's take on it goes in circles and feels as meandering as Cheryl's walk through the elements. Wild only arrives anywhere in the most literal sense, and its many detours, while scenic, serve as little more than temporary diversions on a road to nowhere.

  • Vallée pushes [Witherspoon] toward thoughtfulness, yet his atmospheric style runs counter to the obvious material. There are highly symbolic mountains to climb, highly symbolic streams to cross. Wild works considerably better as a gender drama, as Cheryl comes into contact with different men on the trail, some helpful, others potentially predatory.

  • There's a sense that Vallée seeks a purity in his no-frills shooting style, the same sort that denoted his prior Dallas Buyers Club. And as with that film, the director carries out the beats of Nick Hornby's script with total efficiency, but offers little in the way of inventive visual expression of what drew him to the intermittently poignant drama that makes up Wild.

  • Any hint of capturing the true quicksilver quality of interior monologue is kiboshed by parcelling out her backstory in neat sequential gobbets as she ventures along the path. Of course, we feel her isolation, her understandable wariness about being a lone woman fearful of male sexual predators, but the film lacks the aesthetic courage to render the open-air duration which might allow us communion with her feat of endurance.

  • Built like a jigsaw puzzle, but you put the pieces together and all it is is a picture of bunny rabbits. A tale of empowerment, purification through physical suffering - "I'm gonna walk myself back to the woman my mother thought I was" - and a strayed sheep (the heroine is called Cheryl Strayed!) herded back to the right path, fatally lacking in surprise and weighed down by the figure of the saintly (and deceased) mom urging Cheryl to embrace her mistakes and "put yourself in the way of beauty".

  • Vallée takes what could have been an insufferably hokey stream-of-consciousness, downplays the hokey, and pushes the stream. Vallée distills the memories defining Cheryl’s journey to brief, delicately composed flashes—moments where little ostensibly happens, charged with tension, each as important as the last.

  • Threats lurk around every bend—the chilling buzz of a rattle-snake, the leers of uncouth men—while dehydration and starvation are never far off. But these incidents tend to slowly diffuse in the movie’s fragmentary narrative. Instead, the places Cheryl passes through and the people she meets trigger flashback detours into her troubled past and memories of her luminous mother (Laura Dern).

  • Vallée may have pitched his tent onto a different subject — a metaphysical creation of temporal leaps and human intervention — but the real-life Cheryl Strayed, narcissist or not, talented scribe or not, is on to something. Hornby takes it for his screenplay, Vallée manages to maneuver the concept in the shooting and editing, and in close-up, Witherspoon writes and articulates meaningful terms. Everyone is on the same page.

  • The film isn't exactly subtle: Reese Witherspoon shoulders a massive backpack that symbolizes [Strayed's] emotional baggage, and screenwriter Nick Hornby resorts to abrupt flashbacks and interior monologues to depict Strayed's struggles with drug addiction and depression. But these become less frequent and jarring the further she travels, and as the locale gradually shifts from the California desert to the lush greenery of the Pacific Northwest, the sense of transformation is overpowering.

  • In general, Wild’s ratio of dramatic incident (including a tense encounter with a couple of plainly predatory men) to “just existing in nature” is nicely judged... Vallée succeeds in preventing the many flashbacks from completely disrupting Strayed’s steady, plodding rhythm.

  • The hike is meant to enlighten, purify, and, to a large extent, punish her — to break her down and build her up. The movie works because it makes you feel that this trek is both taking its toll and rejuvenating Strayed. What’s important is that this isn’t a movie about some woman from the luxury classes coming down from the mountain. It’s a woman with no money and no plan B daring to scale the mountain. The risk is total.

  • Wild is surprising. It is a film that concentrates on the rhythm of movement and observation, a relaxed bildungsroman that could have leaned much harder on its redemption story but wisely chooses not to.

  • Wild is a lot more than just its script, as like in the book, its charm comes from vivid imagery and Vallée excels at cinematically and psychologically rendering these working class, emotionally conflicted personal frescoes.

More Links