Wild (2014 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jean-Marc Vallée|
|Screenplay by||Nick Hornby|
|Based on||Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail|
by Cheryl Strayed
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
|Box office||$52.5 million|
Wild is a 2014 American biographical adventure drama film directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. The screenplay by Nick Hornby is based on Cheryl Strayed's 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. The film stars Reese Witherspoon as Strayed, alongside Laura Dern (as Strayed's mother), with Thomas Sadoski, Michiel Huisman and Gaby Hoffmann among several others in supporting roles. The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 29, 2014, and was released theatrically on December 3, 2014, in North America.
Wild opened to positive critical reviews, with much praise going toward the performances of Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. Both actresses received Academy Award nominations for their performances, in the categories of Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.
In June 1995, despite a lack of hiking experience, recent divorcée Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) leaves Minneapolis, Minnesota, to hike 1,100 miles of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail on a journey of self-discovery and healing. During the hike, Strayed reflects in flashbacks on her childhood in Minnesota and memories of her mother, Bobbi Grey (Laura Dern). Bobbi's death from cancer sent Cheryl into a deep depression that she tried to numb with heroin and anonymous sex, which eventually destroyed her marriage to her husband Paul (Thomas Sadoski). After finding out she was pregnant, Strayed got an abortion and resolved to hike the trail to redeem herself.
Strayed begins her trek in the Mojave Desert in Southern California with her backpack. On the first night, she discovers she has brought the wrong type of gas for her stove and is therefore unable to cook food. After a few more days, Strayed meets Frank (W. Earl Brown), a farmer and construction worker who takes her in for the night and with his wife offers her a home-cooked meal and a warm shower.
Strayed meets a hiker named Greg (Kevin Rankin) who agrees to meet her at Kennedy Meadows, California. Upon arrival, she meets a camper named Ed (Cliff DeYoung) who helps Strayed strategically lighten her overweight backpack and convinces her to replace her undersized hiking boots with a new pair, to be delivered to a future stop on the trail. Strayed continues her hike into Northern California despite Greg's warnings of deep snowfall. After removing a boot to remove a loose toenail, the boot accidentally falls down an inaccessibly deep slope, forcing her to continue the journey wearing sandals reinforced with duct tape.
Strayed's best friend Aimee sends her provisions to stops along the trail, including letters that congratulate her on her progress. Strayed also receives letters from her ex-husband Paul along the way.
On the morning of Day 58, Strayed is out of water and desperately licks the dew off her tent. Dehydrated and near exhaustion, she siphons water from a muddy puddle. While she waits for her water to disinfect, two hunters approach, one making suggestive remarks that leave Strayed feeling threatened and vulnerable. This causes her to quickly leave and run away.
Strayed makes her way out of California and arrives in Ashland, Oregon, where she meets a man named Jonathan (Michiel Huisman), with whom she attends a tribute concert to Jerry Garcia and later spends the night. Days later, Strayed arrives at Mount Hood National Forest and encounters a friendly group of young hikers who share their experiences. The hikers recognize her from the signatures she's been leaving in the hiker's record books along the PCT. Strayed frequently leaves quotes or poems that are meaningful to her along her journey.
One rainy day, Strayed finds a llama that escaped from a young boy hiking with his grandmother. Strayed chats with the boy, who asks her about her parents. After she mentions her mother's death, the boy sings "Red River Valley" to Strayed, saying it is a song his mother used to sing to him. After the boy and his grandmother carry on down the trail, Strayed breaks down and cries.
On September 15, after hiking for 94 days, Strayed reaches the Bridge of the Gods on the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington, ending her journey. At various points along the trail, including at the end of the bridge, Strayed encounters a red fox, which she interprets as carrying the spirit of her mother watching over her. She reflects that, four years in the future, she will remarry at a spot in view of the bridge, five years after that have a son and one year after that have a daughter named Bobbi, after Strayed's mother.
- Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed
- Bobbi Lindstrom as Young Cheryl (the real-life daughter of Cheryl Strayed)
- Laura Dern as Bobbi Grey, Cheryl's mother
- Thomas Sadoski as Paul, Cheryl's ex-husband (based on Cheryl's ex-husband Marco Littig)
- Keene McRae as Leif, Cheryl's brother
- Michiel Huisman as Jonathan, a man Cheryl has sex with after meeting him in Ashland, Oregon
- W. Earl Brown as Frank, a construction worker whom Cheryl asks for food
- Jan Hoag as Annette, wife of Frank who serves Cheryl dinner
- Gaby Hoffmann as Aimee, Cheryl's best friend in Minnesota
- Kevin Rankin as Greg, a hiker Cheryl meets on the trail who ends up quitting (based on Roger Carpenter)
- Brian Van Holt as the ranger in Mount Hood National Forest who opens the store for Cheryl after it was closed
- Cliff DeYoung as Ed, a man at Kennedy Meadows trail stop who helps Cheryl
- Mo McRae as Jimmy Carter, a reporter who interviews Cheryl for the "Hobo Times" (he mistakes her for a hobo drifter despite her denial)
- Charles Baker as TJ, one of two threatening hunters Cheryl meets on the trail
- Jason Newell as Ronald Nylund, Cheryl's father
- Ray Buckley as Joe, Cheryl's drug-addicted boyfriend who got her pregnant resulting in an abortion
- Cathryn de Prume as Stacy Johnson, a female hiker Cheryl meets on the trail
- Evan O'Toole as Kyle, a young boy Cheryl meets on the trail
- Anne Gee Byrd as Vera, Kyle's grandmother
- Randy Schulman as Cheryl's therapist
- Anne Sorce as Bobbi's nurse in the hospital
- Matt Pascua as Wayne, Leif's friend
- Art Alexakis as the tattoo artist
- Cheryl Strayed makes an appearance at the beginning as the woman who drops off Reese at the motel.
On March 8, 2012, Reese Witherspoon announced that she would make a movie from Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, through her new production company, Pacific Standard, as well as star as Strayed in the film. In July 2013, Fox Searchlight Pictures acquired the rights to the project, with Nick Hornby writing and Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea and Bill Pohlad producing. In August 2013, Canadian Jean-Marc Vallée signed on to direct.
Principal photography began on October 11, 2013, with shooting occurring on location in Oregon and California. Strayed was available to the production during their time in Oregon. On the rigors of shooting, Witherspoon stated:
By far, this is the hardest movie I've ever made in my life. I didn't hike a thousand miles, of course, but it was a different kind of physical rigor. I'd run up a hill with a 45-pound backpack on, and they'd say, 'Wait, that backpack doesn't look heavy enough. Put this 65-pound backpack on and run up the hill nine or ten times.' We literally didn't stop shooting in those remote locations—we wouldn't break for lunch, we'd just eat snacks. No bathroom breaks. It was crazy, but it was so wonderful. It was complete immersion, and I've never felt closer to a crew. We literally pulled each other up the mountains and carried each others' equipment.
The film's soundtrack, supervised by Susan Jacobs, was released by Sony's Legacy Recordings on November 10, 2014. It contains 15 tracks from various eras of music. "The main direction with music was to use it only during flashbacks," said Vallée. "What Cheryl is listening to in her life, is the music that we hear during the film." A prominent song featured throughout the film is the Simon & Garfunkel cover "El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)", which was used primarily to evoke Cheryl's memory of her mother. Jacobs explained, "This isn't about reality. This is about keeping the essence of the mother there."
Wild premiered on August 29, 2014, at the Telluride Film Festival, and was featured at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8 and the San Diego Film Festival on September 24. It was released in North America on December 3, 2014.
The Bridge of the Gods, where Strayed's journey ends, enjoyed increased popularity and traffic that led to an increase in its toll.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 90% based on 221 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Powerfully moving and emotionally resonant, 'Wild' finds director Jean-Marc Vallée and star Reese Witherspoon working at the peak of their respective powers." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 76 out of 100 based on 47 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.
A.O. Scott of The New York Times wrote that Witherspoon, who appears in nearly every frame of the film, portrayed Strayed "with grit, wit and unblinking honesty." Scott added that the "most audacious" element of the film was its respect for the "free-associative, memory-driven narrative" in Strayed's written memoir, asserting that the film exhibits a "thrilling disregard" for conventions of commercial cinematic storytelling to demonstrate that images and emotions can carry meaning more effectively than "neatly packaged scenes or carefully scripted character arcs."
Stephen Farber of The Hollywood Reporter praised Witherspoon and Dern's performances, as well as Vallée, saying he "has crafted a vivid wilderness adventure film that is also a powerful story of family anguish and survival" and Hornby for adapting "the book with finesse."
Justin Chang of Variety said, "It's no surprise that the versatile Vallée, who recently directed two Oscar-winning performances in Dallas Buyers Club, has elicited from Witherspoon an intensely committed turn that, in its blend of grit, vulnerability, physical bravery and emotional immediacy, represents easily her most affecting and substantial work in the nine years since Walk the Line... Nor is it a surprise that Vallée, whose bracingly sharp editing on Dallas Buyers Club was one of that film's more unsung virtues, has applied similarly bold cutting-room strategies here." Pete Hammond of Deadline Hollywood echoed these statements, feeling Witherspoon "nails it" and that she "delivers her best screen work since her Oscar-winning turn in Walk the Line, and this three-dimensional portrayal of a woman searching for herself... is certain to put her back in the thick of the Best Actress race". My Film Habit critic Allison M. Lyzenga said "It was trying to be a lot of things, and don't think it really accomplished all of them, but it was still interesting enough. So, it's worth a rental."
Strayed, the author of the novel, stated that the film was snubbed from the Best Picture category at the Academy Awards due to "Hollywood sexism." Seven of the eight nominees for the 2014 Best Picture revolve almost entirely around male characters.
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