Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Are you ready to get WILD?


Are you ready to get Wild? The movie based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed comes out Friday, December 5th. I'm curious to see how the film starring Reese Witherspoon as Strayed, and directed by Jean Marc Vallée, who gave us the incredible Dallas Buyers Club, turns out.

I found the book compelling in its' brutal honesty, and surprising in how it moved me. And yes, I'm curious to see how Reese Witherspoon, who seems cemented in my mind as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde,  attacks the rough edges of Cheryl Strayed. Not that she can't handle it, she is, after all,  the same actress who won the Best Actress Oscar for playing June Carter in Walk the Line. For some reason —probably because she is so pretty and petite in 'real life' — it's Elle Woods that always comes to mind first. Talk about my own inner sexist with clearly marked expectations; no wonder women have so far to go, when other women (like me) insist on pre-judging them based on looks! I prefer to think of myself as a feminist but clearly I've got some old tapes running in my head.

But anyway .... overall, Wild is getting great buzz, as they say. The Guardian says director Vallée and writer Nick Hornby stripped Strayed's memoir — which the reviewer says falls into 'self-pity' — turning the film into a 'two hour hallucinatory montage'.  And lest you be reminded of that bad acid trip you took in college, this particular hallucination is a good thing. Variety claims Witherspoon gives her 'finest performance in years', in fact, since her take on Carter in Walk the Line. Variety also talks about Vallee's cutting skills, noting that, editing under the pseudonym, John Mac McMurphy
"Vallee jumps compulsively between narrative tracks; certain individual shots are sustained for just a split second, which creates a whispery, hallucinatory effect in conjunction with the film’s richly detailed soundscape. "
That's the same soundscape that IndieWire didn't much like! Calling attention to what appears to be a glut of flashbacks — in all honesty the book had those too — the IndieWire review had this not very nice note:
"Employing a lot of music that’s mercifully heard mostly in fleeting glimpses (aside from the full-on aforementioned musical montage), “Wild” wants to be a Lucinda Williams song —a little dark, a little sexy, boozy, hard-bitten, but eventually triumphant. But its sloppy and repetitive approach to form keeps that goal at an echoed distance."
 Ouch! We'll have to take a more in-depth look at that soundscape in another post!


From what I've gleaned in reading these reviews, the filmmakers cleaned up Strayed a tad, making her slightly less raunchy, slightly more white bread while still maintaining her adventurous spirit.  In this behind the scenes article for Outside magazine, Strayed tells the interviewer that Reese asked her some basic woman care questions. For me, they give the this-is-only-a-movie game away.
“She wanted to know little details about my time on the trail, like, ‘Did you brush your hair?’ ” Strayed recalled. “I said, ‘Yes, some.’ ”
“What about shaving?” Witherspoon asked.
“Of course not.”
“Will you just tell Jean-Marc that you did?” Strayed remembered her asking. “I’ve done a lot of things, but I’m not going to grow armpit hair.”
In the end it was a moot point anyway. “She’s blond,” Vallée shrugged. “It wouldn’t show.”
Not willing to grow armpit hair? Tell that to Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey who lost multiple poundage to play their parts. What's a little armpit hair especially when, as director Jean Marc Vallée notes, "it wouldn't show."  Even though, as most blondes would attest to, blonde or not, arm pit hair shows.

I really shouldn't be so picky, Witherspoon both starred in and produced the film. But really, when you get down to it, that's the difference between being an adventurer and being an actor playing one.

So how 'bout you? Are you wild to see Wild? It's one of the rare movies of the year —this or any year — that features a female protagonist living her life, not following or even traveling alongside a man, doing his. And no matter what, we need more of those.

Here's the trailer if you haven't seen it lately...


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