Wild is about a long, long hike up the West coast, from the far southern border of the U.S. to within sight of Canada. And it's also about the high cost of the long walk back toward restoration.
Producer Reese Witherspoon read Cheryl Strayed's bestselling memoir and optioned it the next day. She also plays the author in the film. After her seven-year marriage and her life fell apart due to her own drug addictions and infidelity, Cheryl legally changed her last name to “Strayed” and left everything behind and set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail solo—1,100 miles of being alone with her thoughts and her memories and a companion or two along the way.
That all makes this sound like Eat Pray Love meets Into the Wild: woman goes out into nature to find herself. I sharply dislike both of those stories, but Wild is different enough that it won me over. For one, Strayed is clear-eyed about her responsibility for her life's unraveling and realistic about what the trail can do. As Witherspoon plays her, she is foul-mouthed and tender, broken and strong.
And in the hands of screenwriter Nick Hornby (An Education) and director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, The Young Victoria), Wild also does some hard work as a movie. Memoir-to-movie adaptations are hard to film, because memoirs are almost always written by the author about his or her own life. That makes for a great deal of first-person narration and reflection, because a memoir is not just a straightforward recounting of events (that's an autobiography). It is a story about those events that imbues them with meaning. (A good way to think about this is the traditional evangelical form of the “testimony,” in which ...1