Wednesday, March 04, 2015

"Wild" (film)

Went to see "Wild" this afternoon.

Here is what thought about it.
“Wild” begins with novice hiker Cheryl Strayed at one of the lowest points during her three-month, 1,100-mile-long solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail. She gingerly inspects her bloodied feet and prepares to pluck a battered nail from her big toe. While yanking it, she emits a primal scream of agony and causes one of her boots to tumble over a steep cliff. In frustration, she tosses its partner down the incline as well, and shrieks some colorful expletives for good measure.

We should rightfully be filled with concern for this traveler, all alone in the wilderness and sans appropriate footwear. Yet I knew she would be all right. Why? Because Reese Witherspoon, an actress with enough high-octane spunk to fuel an entire cheerleading squad as well as the football team, is playing her.
There are plenty of encounters, both welcome and unwelcome, along the way, including a rattlesnake, a curious fox, predatory men and surprisingly kind strangers. She sweats, swears, shivers and mutters her way through scorching heat and unseasonable snow, copes with dehydration and gobbles freeze-dried meals, all the while building up quite a stench in between rest stops.
As for life-threatening hazards, they mainly exist in her head as flickers of old memories grow into full-blown flashback sequences. I was less convinced by these visits to the past where we see Strayed lose her bearings after her adored mother dies from a virulent bout of cancer at 45. (Laura Dern, only nine years older than Witherspoon, manages to be quite fabulous as Bobbi, a human sunbeam who radiates unconditional love for her children after leaving behind an abusive marriage.)

Overwhelmed by grief, Strayed engages in reckless sex with strangers and picks up a heroin addiction while destroying her marriage to a rather sweet and caring husband.
The audience was overwhelmingly female - that's the demographic for this film - and I was occasionally watching through spread fingers and internally reviewing my recently-acquired understanding of density matrices during some of the more life-affirming scenes.

I had some variant takes on this film: (i) it's a familiar hymn to the improbably advantages accruing to impulsive and emotional young women faced with difficult tasks over better-prepared guys; (ii) an example of the genotypic consequences in offspring of mating a hippy-dippy chick with a violently abusive alcoholic; (iii) a case study in emotional blackmail, whereby someone who is basically incompetent and out-of-control implicitly relies on the helpfulness and restraint of strangers to survive at all.

Curmudgeonly thoughts aside, consider all the prudent, pleasant people in the world (those who have not mainlined heroin and indulged in damaged-goods hyper-promiscuous sex 'with any man who asked') whose mundane life stories have not been turned into a best-selling book, and then a major film with a Hollywood A-lister salivating over the leading part!

(More about Cheryl Strayed).