Cheryl Strayed was a mess. She was in the midst of divorcing her husband. She was using heroin. She was lost. So, in the summer of 1995, she figured maybe she might be able to find herself by hiking a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Which she did. And then she wrote a book about her transformative experience. And now it's a movie.
Please, everyone stop with the "Oh, this is the movie where Reese Witherspoon looks like hell." You are part of the problem. Because this is the movie where Reese Witherspoon gets to stop being a pretty doll moved around like a pawn in support of a man's story (except for Legally Blonde; that's an awesome woman's story) and gets to be as hugely, honkingly, humanly screwed up and complex and fascinating and dealing with her own shit as men get to be on film.
Wild is an unabashedly feminist film. Nick Hornby's script actually uses the F-word, actually has this word coming out of the mouths of women, who aren't even ashamed of it. Witherspoon's Cheryl has a conversation with her mother (the always wonderful Laura Dern), who laments how she never had her own life, just went from being a daughter to a wife to a mother, always defined by what she was supposed to be doing for other people. This is a movie in which women talk about how necessary it is for women to have their own lives.
I would love for Wild to be seen by little girls and young women as an example of why women, and not just men, should see that things that are demanding can also be inspiring and rewarding.
Kudos to director Jean-Marc Vallée and Hornby for nailing one aspect of a woman's perspective that I have never seen onscreen before. It's the wariness women always -- always -- have when dealing with strange men. Cheryl meets a lot of men on her months' long trek, because it's almost all men doing the same hike. And Wild rightfully acknowledges a thing that most women know: Most men aren't dangerous, not even the ones who turn out to be creeps and jerks. But we never know which one is going to be the exception. And Vallée creates enormous suspense at every single instance when Cheryl faces an encounter with a male stranger: Is this that one?
This is a film full of spectacular landscapes, both of the exterior natural world and the interior human spirit. Reese Witherspoon looks like hell from her months in the wild without a stylist or a shower? No way. She looks gorgeous: vital, strong, energetic, happy. Triumphant.