Reese Witherspoon Is Emotionally Raw in Wild

by Emily Rems

Review by Jenni Miller:

Reese Witherspoon gets admirably down and dirty in this adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir about her trek along the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a trip she’s barely prepared for; unlike the more experienced hikers she meets along the way, her bag is unwieldy and full of things she doesn’t really need, and she’s not nearly ready for the physical travails of the task, from bloody toenails to crapping outside. Left alone in the wilderness, Strayed has plenty of time to reflect on the life-shattering events that sent her packing, from the crippling loss of her mother (Laura Dern) to the self-destructive impulses that torpedoed her marriage.

Like Strayed’s autobiography, Wild relies on inner monologues to illustrate her harrowing journey. Nick Hornby’s script feels a bit uneven, with a few too many whispery voiceovers, but Witherspoon’s temerity carries the day. She doesn’t flinch from the emotional rawness conveyed in Strayed’s original text, whether she’s revisiting memories of her mother in happier days or the darkest moments of her own sexual acting out and drug use. Brief appearances from Gaby Hoffmann as Strayed’s best friend help change things up a bit, as do the colorful characters she meets during her travels, but it’s up to Witherspoon to do all the heavy narrative lifting. 


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