Rough, Tough Reese Rules
By Skip Sheffield
Reese Witherspoon rules!
Who knew this tiny, pretty, girly-girl was such a warrior woman? I sure didn’t until I saw “Wild,” which Witherspoon produced and stars in as Cheryl Strayed.
Strayed was a troubled woman who dropped out of everyday life and embarked on a 1,100-mile hike, which she chronicled in her memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail.” British novelist Nick Hornby (“About a Boy”) adapted the book for a screenplay directed by French-Canadian Jean-Marc Vallee (“Dallas Buyers Club”).
Cheryl Strayed’s dropout was triggered by two events: the breakup of her marriage and the death of her beloved mother Bobbi, played by Laura Dern. Oh, there were a couple of other things too. Cheryl got into alcohol and drugs and “graduated” to shooting heroin. She became sexually promiscuous as well. In short Cheryl was a mess at the outset of her ill-prepared journey.
“Wild” is a visually gorgeous film, and Reese Witherspoon is not bad to look at either. Reese is only 61 inches tall, and she probably doesn’t weight more than a large sack of flour. It is pretty funny watching her struggling with a ridiculously huge backpack (she calls it “Monster”) that is just about as big as she is. Reese cheerfully swears like a sailor, bares her body and reveals a bit of her soul in her scenes with Laura Dern, whom I have always loved. It’s nice to see Dern get a decent role, and it does not get much more tragic when a battered, ever-sunny woman suffers and dies of lung cancer at the young age of 45. Dern is only nine years older than 38-year-old Witherspoon, but she has the sacrificing mom thing down beautifully.
Cheryl Strayed is an avowed feminist, which does not necessarily mean she hates men. However, all but a handful of the male characters in “Wild” come off as rotters. The worst of the lot is Cheryl’s alcoholic, abusive stepfather. On the other hand is her endlessly patient, tolerant ex-husband Paul (Thomas Sadoski).
In the end “Wild” is a joyful journey from the depths of depression and self-destruction to the highs of amazing physical endurance, strength and triumph.