Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Reese runs ‘Wild’

By James Colt Harrison

Cheryl Strayed is a real woman who wrote Wild, a real memoir about her experiences hiking in California’s Pacific Crest mountains. It wasn’t an ordinary hike, but it was one that was a catharsis for her and her life. It helped her to deal with her failed marriage and mother’s death. Reese Witherspoon, a go-getting actress and producer, saw great potential in the book as a film starring---who else but herself! There isn’t an actress on earth who wouldn’t want to be on screen in practically every scene and have no other female competition.

Although Miss Witherspoon is physically a tad delicate and dainty at 5’-1” to be trudging through the slog in her bulky REI leather boots (plug!), she is fetching enough in her no-makeup makeup to still look delightfully feminine. Had she worn no makeup at all, it would have been a horror picture. But, being one of the producers, she had access to the miracles of Hollywood makeup artists and hairstylists (Robin Matthews & Miia Kovero) to make her look just the right degree of disheveled, smudged, and still darling. There are no traces of Elle Woods, but she’s doing her best to look like a hiker.

Ms. Strayed apparently had a need to cleanse herself of whatever was dogging her, so the best way to do it is to trek to the mountains and breathe all that clean air. Even though she suffered bruises, cuts, scares from animals, and loneliness, it was just what she needed to test herself physically. She’s a woman of today who has casual sex along the way with no regrets. It’s probably what a man would do and she is an equal in every way. Reese captured that woman and did a splendid job.

The excellent Laura Dern pops up in flashbacks as Strayed’s mother. She was a single mother who had to raise her daughter on her own. She had to be mother, father, and friend. Dern has just the right amount of warmth and girlishness to relate to her daughter. Dern must have a strong ego that allows her to play Reese’s mother, who is only 8 years younger than she in real life!

Cinematographer Yves Belanger had plenty of gorgeous scenery to work with, and he did wonders with his camera capturing the lush greenery of the mountains and the bone-dry desert. The camera work definitely became one of the characters in the movie.

The film is directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. His most recent hit was Dallas Buyer’s Club, an Oscar® nominee last year for Best Picture. It did win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar® for Jared Leto. Going in the opposite direction than that film, Vallee has fashioned screenwriter Nick Hornby’s script into a character study of a real, live strong woman who will make females proud everywhere.

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