But Wild is not it.
Blame it on Nick Hornby’s script, the casting, possibly the direction of Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club) and/or subsequent editing…but the emotional peaks and valleys of our heroin’s hike through the desert never really land the way they should. Always too self-conscious and clumsily written.
Strayed’s bio, Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail, details her rampant promiscuity and drug abuse which resulted in a divorce, and which the film blames mostly on her inability to cope with the death of her mother.
These self-destructive episodes are dropped in to the film in a very non-linear fashion which never really works. Partially because the casting of Laura Dern as the mother doesn’t work; and partially because Witherspoon does not make all that believable a hellion. Not to mention, for a person who regularly quotes the likes of Flannery O’Connor and Robert Frost, as apparently Cheryl Strayed did on her trek, Witherspoon’s portrayal doesn’t come off as all that bright. Or deep.
Her fault or the screenplay’s?
Unlike 127 Hours, where James Franco was able to lose himself in the solitude of his dilemma, we never feel as though Witherspoon is actually alone. It always seems as though the transport van is just 50 feet away readying to take her back to The Four Seasons.
I think what happens with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, especially the ones who reach fame at an early age, is they never pause long enough in their chaotic careers to do the kind of technique work required to fully immerse in to a role. Witherspoon seems in over her head in this role. Incapable of escaping deep enough in to her subconscious to be truly private for the camera.
Still…I guess she gets an ‘A’ for effort.
But, please, not an Oscar!