Expected Release Date: December 5, 2014
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Based on: Wild by Cheryl Strayed, published 2012
Overview: Set adrift by the sudden loss of her mother, a woman finds her bearings by leaving everything behind and hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
Working for it: This is a really good book. It’s wonderfully written, poignant, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting–and a well-written book can be a good place to start if you want to make a good movie. This particular book has some dramatic scenes and a narrative that could give a film version the satisfying upside-down checkmark plot structure that audiences enjoy.
Working against it: The writing is a large part of the appeal of this novel. Cheryl Strayed knows language, and when she waxes poetic it is lyrical, genuine, and lovely to read. I doubt this could be translated to film, and if you take away the beautiful things Cheryl says about her experience, you’re left with a foolish and troubled twenty-something who, having never backpacked before, decides to backpack alone along the Pacific Crest Trail. Perhaps, if Cheryl’s voice as narrator is incorporated, some of the beauty of the writing could be transferred to the screen, but it would be a tricky thing to accomplish.
“Wild” Card: For me, the wild card is a toss-up between the director and Reese Witherspoon. I’ll explain… The director, Jean-Marc Vallee, has not directed many noteworthy movies until his recent success with Dallas Buyers Club. So, is his success there an indicator of talent finally recognized and appreciated, or is it a fluke? It’s difficult to say. Then there’s Reese Witherspoon, who, I believe, suffers from what I deem the “Jennifer Aniston effect,” which means that she can’t not be herself in a role. No matter how hard she works to get into character, and no matter how brilliantly she performs, she’s always Reese Witherspoon. So, instead of seeing twenty-something Cheryl Strayed hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and dealing with her personal tragedy, I’ll see Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, dealing with her person tragedy, etc. But, you know, if Jean-Marc Vallee can turn Matthew McConaughey into AIDS-suffering, drug-smuggling Ron Woodroof, then perhaps he can turn Reese Witherspoon into a young woman who lost her mother before she was ready, and who regained control of her life by doing something incredibly stupid and wonderful.
So, WIMAGF?: Your guess is as good as mine…but I’ll be daring and say that lightning will strike twice. Yes, this movie will be worth watching. But read the book, too!