Wild (2014)

(On Cable TV, December 2015) I will admit that over time, I have gotten used to Reese Witherspoon’s innocuous screen persona to the point of never expecting more than blandly likable performances in the vein of Legally Blonde and Walk the Line.  Maybe I’ve been watching the wrong movies, but memoir adaptation Wild feels different.  Obviously a passion project for the actress, it features Witherspoon in the role of a young woman walking the Pacific trail in an attempt to reboot her life after the crushing loss of her mother and an aimless hedonistic period.  Shot in nearly cinema-vérité style by Jean-Marc Vallée, Wild feels raw and honest, a true-life odyssey walking north the West Coast.  The scenery is spectacular, the way the flashbacks are structured as impressionistic bursts is effective and Witherspoon herself is captivating through the entire film.  It feels like a far more likable version of Into the Wild, and the mechanics of how the protagonist manages to master hiking and deconstruct herself to her satisfaction is both uplifting and poignant.  Both a thrilling adventure story and an effecting character study, Wild works far better than expected, and will remain a milestone in Witherspoon’s filmography. 

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