Movie review: "Wild" is mostly a Reese Witherspoon showcase

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir “Wild” is more than just a two-hour Best Actress audition for Reese Witherspoon, but it’s also definitely that.

And it’s almost sure to work, if only for her willingness to get relatively dark (and I mean relative to her typical America’s Sweetheart roles).

Cheryl Strayed (Witherspoon) is a woman who sets out to hike more than 1,000 miles across the Pacific Crest Trail. She’s not an experienced hiker, and the journey is a grueling one at times, but the reasons for her journey unfold in steps.

The “journey of self-discovery” is a well-worn story in film and on page, and “Wild” doesn’t diverge from this path enough to be anything but predictable. That doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyably uplifting, even if the “cast of alternately colorful and threatening characters met on the road” bit feels worn. Yes, I realize it’s a true story.

It’s a bit lighter than the similar Sean Penn-directed “Into the Wild,” but the emerging realities of what Cheryl is escaping from — and ultimately finding — on her journey keep this from falling off a cliff.

I always felt that Witherspoon showed a lot of promise in her early days before she moved into this upbeat Meg Ryan-vein of work — a too common pitfall for actresses that can be blamed on the roles that are available — so it’s great to see her range. It’s a fine, if not necessarily transformative performance.

The rest of the film’s pedigree — directed by Jean-Marc Vallée of “Dallas Buyers Club” and a screenplay adapted by Nick Hornby — had hopes higher for me, but “Wild” is good, not great.

Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight


Opens Friday

3 stars