Tuesday, January 27, 2015
**** out of ****
Jean-Marc Vallée didn't impress me as much as he impressed others with Dallas Buyer's Club last year. It was a fine film that told an important story with great performances from his cast, but I felt like it was held back by a TV Movie-style narrative, similar to this year's The Theory of Everything (though not nearly as bad) which created a somewhat monotonous experience.
Watching his new film, Wild, however, led me to recall how often Vallée likes to incorporate flashback footage into scenes without their audio, preferring the white noise of the environment the character inhabits during their recollection. This is nothing new, but I've always considered it to be a very effective method in conveying memory -and it really hasn't been used in mainstream movies to the point of becoming a standard editorial formula. To the benefit of this adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's memoir, he utilizes non-linear editing on a much heavier level this time and I'm beginning to appreciate him, as a director, much more.
Reese Witherspoon embodies the humanity of a soul-searching wanderer, dodging the phony hippy cliches through physically strenuous situations and strong narration, making poetic literary quotations with the earnestness they require. Nick Hornby was a good choice to adapt Strayed's story for a screenplay.
Her memories of life decisions and tragedies that befell her are a constant in her consciousness, as she hikes 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. The most painful of all these memories are those of her mother (Laura Dern), whose passing affected her so deeply, her life spiraled out of control. What's so true and beautiful about this film, is seeing how remote things in the wilderness can trigger memories and provoke self-reflection.