Reese Witherspoon is boldly center-frame in “Wild,” director Jean-Marc Vallée and screenwriter Nick Hornsby’s teeming, tactile, superbly subjective adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s worldwide best-selling memoir of a woman who chooses to lose herself hiking through the desert. Vallée pushes forward on slivers of shivery memories. Witherspoon’s Strayed is a small woman both human and iconic: bearing an oversized, ill-advised backpack like a Pixar figure—Heav-E instead of Wall-E—she sets out on a heroine’s journey that’s iconically antiheroic. Sex, drugs, mother love, mother loss, some more sex, behaviors are blunt and gently daubed at the same time. “Wild” is an unsentimental marvel, following few expected contrails and rejecting the “redemption” narrative right in the I. There’s a wealth of kindness in each and every scene: wrongs are offered as hurts, and not as simple narrative demerits. With Laura Dern as Strayed’s mother, epic in each tremulous gesture, Thomas Sadoski, Michiel Huisman, W. Earl Brown, Gaby Hoffmann, Kevin Rankin, Keene McRae. 120m. (Ray Pride)
“Wild” is now playing.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.