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He Said, She Said Review Site

Wild

What She said:

She

Wild is the who-knows-if-it’s-true story of Cheryl Strayed, a woman whose life has fallen apart to the point where she decides to reclaim herself by hiking more than a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. The trail runs from the deserts of Southern California all the way up to the pinelands of Oregon and Washington. As Cheryl makes her way through her journey, viewers are treated to flashbacks from her former life. They include growing up in relative poverty with her troubled, but loving mother, her mother’s unexpected death, and the repercussions of this death, including rampant drug use and sexual promiscuity, and the resulting dissolution of her marriage. Cheryl has been through a lot through the years, some of which was unfortunate bad luck, but much of which is actually the result of her own callous actions and haphazard personality. As she climbs the Pacific Crest Trail, she attempts to come to terms with the decisions she’s made in an effort to finally move forward with her life and leave her past behind her. Of course, her present circumstances are also quite challenging as well.

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As I mentioned, Cheryl only has herself to blame for much of what she has been through in life. She wasn’t always the kindest daughter, and certainly was not the most devoted wife. She’s one of those people who likes to push boundaries and is a self-professed feminist. But she has also seen the unfavorable outcomes of many of these actions. And so she’s left emotionally wrecked and slightly humbled. The Cheryl of present is not someone who I would entirely agree with, but she is still relatively likable, which is essential to the success of this film. Because this was a character study, it would have been dreadful if I had found myself not enjoying watching Cheryl on screen. There are aspects of her that are relatable—including the fact that she’s just a person trying to find their way—and so this film winds up being powerful and engaging to watch.

The flashbacks can be a bit all over the place, but mainly jump to three crucial periods in Cheryl’s life—when she was a college student, her mother’s death, and the dissolution of her marriage. Some of the content in these flashbacks can be a bit graphic, and while it may not be entirely necessary, it is effective in showing us just how lost Cheryl becomes.  For me, the overall construction of the narrative of this film works. I especially enjoyed the time spent in the present as Cheryl navigates the Pacific Crest Trail. I am one of those believers in the power of Mother Nature in helping people to find themselves. There is no better setting for a little soul searching and introspective thought.

In fact, this film was a little meta for me because watching Cheryl do this kind of journey made me think a little about myself as well. It’s helpful in that sense—it makes you think carefully about the decisions that you’ve made and those that are yet to come, particularly how you treat other people.

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The sceneries in this film were beautiful. It really makes you treasure the outdoors. I cannot say that I’d like to hike through the dessert, but there is something to be said for the natural splendor of it all. I enjoyed the camera work and editing, which captured the beauty but also didn’t make the visuals too static and thus boring.

The acting in this film was great. Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl, our lead, and she really embraced the role. She’s headstrong and yet emotionally fragile. She really shows the breadth of her acting ability through this character and I was quite impressed with her performance. The auxiliary actors and actresses were also quite good, especially Laura Dern as Cheryl’s mother Bobbi. She and Witherspoon are actually quite close in age, and yet when they’re on-screen dynamic as mother and daughter is quite believable.

Wild is a relatively solid movie. While I think some of it is over-dramatized in an effort to capture viewers, it’s still an interesting story and a nice watch. I like that we have a strong feminine lead who is also clearly troubled and extremely imperfect. This is a movie that has some good payoffs in the end.

Thumbs up.

What He said:

He

Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) has decided to go on a hike. And when I say hike, I don’t mean something along the lines of what I like to do when I get some free time. Cheryl has decided to trek 1000 miles across the Pacific Crest Trail; and all alone too.  You see, Cheryl has reached one of those moments in life where this is something she has to do. Her life is in shambles and she thinks the hike will serve as a good starting off point for the rest of her life.

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Let me back track for a second. Drama and turmoil are nothing new to Cheryl and her family. When she was 13, her mother left – along with her and her two siblings – her father, who was abusive. Bobbi (her mom) finally had enough, so she packed up and took off with the kids. They ended up building a house on a 40-acre farm. While great that they escaped that abusive situation, they were not out of the woods yet. They were so poor that they did not have electricity or running water for several years.   

Ok, back to the future…err I mean present. Cheryl’s mom ended up passing away rather suddenly when Cheryl was a senior in college. It’s not only a shame because she was young, but Bobbi (Laura Dern) was actually going to college with Cheryl. Here was a woman who escaped an abusive relationship, got her own home (and eventually running water and power), and she was eventually able to do something she never did before. She was back in school and loved it. So, it’s not sad simply for the fact that she was only 45 when she passed away, here was a woman who scraped and clawed her way through life and just couldn’t seem to catch a break.

Cheryl she cannot handle her mom’s death. Her life spirals out of control. She turns to drugs and (frequent and degrading) sex. She will sleep with just about anyone who looks at her the right way. She will do it just about anywhere she can too. I’m not talking about a normal/healthy person who likes to partake in a little hanky panky outside of a committed relationship. I am talking about addictive and destructive behavior. She uses sex like an addict uses alcohol or drugs. That and the actual drugs are her mechanism for coping (more like escaping to be honest).  

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It ruins her life and the hike is her attempt to take her life back. I love a good hike, but I have never done anything like what Cheryl is attempting in this movie. I’ve gone hiking, I’ve camped (not in a while), but I have never done either completely isolated from civilization or for so long. If I go for a hike – even by myself – it’s in a state park that is not removed from civilization (and I always have my cell phone). There are times she is completely off the grid. I’m not sure I could do that, at least not without some kind of guide or very experienced companion. She could actually die if she slips or falls, because there’s nobody around to help her and she has no contact with the outside world.  She also covers some terrain that is home to some pretty dangerous predators. The trek tests Cheryl physically, emotionally, and mentally. Her life and sanity are on the line. Can she survive? Can she get what she wants out of this trek if she does?

I didn’t know a ton about this movie going into it. I knew it was nominated for some awards and it was about a woman who was attempting some kind of life-changing or soul-searching feat. I knew it was a hike, but I didn’t know quite how far/dangerous it was or her motivation for doing it. I was willing to give it a chance because of the reviews and I generally like Reese Witherspoon.

I thought this was a pretty damn good movie. Drama isn’t my favorite genre, but when I come across one I like, I usually really like it.

That’s probably because I found the story to be a good one. Even though I might not agree with or even completely understand someone who crashes and burns (Cheryl is a trainwreck) after a loss, it doesn’t mean it isn’t fascinating to watch. Not that I “enjoy” watching her suffering, it’s just interesting to see how different people react. That’s probably because that is so far from how I react to loss, I find it interesting to see someone who simply can’t cope with it and ruins their life as a result.  I’ve never really been one to totally fall apart. I have a house, a lot of things in that house, and a couple of cars. Those things have to be paid for by something, so I have to work for a living. I cannot fathom simply putting my life at risk and abandoning all of these things – and potentially ruining my life. Lots of people do though and it’s interesting to see how the human mind reacts to what life throws at us. It’s similar to how I find crime dramas or serial killer stuff to be totally fascinating, despite the fact it can sometimes be extremely disgusting.

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Reese Witherspoon was very good as Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl was a very damaged person at this point in her life. Even she knew she had issues. She actually turns to one of her friends during the movie and says something along the lines of, “What the hell happened to me?” It’s at that point that she decides she is going to turn her life around or die trying. Cheryl isn’t the most likeable person when she was an addict, but you find yourself rooting for her as she makes a legitimate effort to get better. Witherspoon portrayed both aspects of Cheryl’s personality quite convincingly.

Laura Dern wasn’t in the movie a ton, but she was the only other person in the movie who really had significant screen time. Since Cheryl was on the move, she would encounter new people along the way, but never sticking with many of them too long. None of those actors had enough of a role to make much of an impact, besides Dern. I don’t know anything about Cheryl Strayed’s mom other than what I read or saw in this movie. I don’t know if Dern’s portrayal was an accurate of this person or not. Regardless of that, she gave a performance that showed a very kind and caring person. Cheryl’s mom had a rough life and never had much money, but she always kept a positive outlook on life. She loved her children and loved life. She seemed like a very kind person and – unlike her daughter to be honest – she never let the fact that bad things happen to her get her down. She dealt with some tough things and always managed to be grateful for what little she had.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on April 11, 2015.

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