Witherspoon’s ‘Wild’ hike heads toward Oscar nom

Their phone conversation was as short as it was awkward.

“I’m sorry you have to walk a thousand miles, just to …”

“Finish that sentence!” demands Reese Witherspoon’s character Cheryl, to the man she’d married years ago and still deeply cares for.

“Happy trails, Cheryl”. Click.

And with that, filmgoers find Witherspoon embarking on a cinematic journey that signifies her most challenging and emotional acting endeavor to date.

wild

Witherspoon, an Academy Award winner for her role as June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line” (2005), dominates the screen as best-selling author Cheryl Strayed. “Wild” is the movie adaptation of Strayed’s 2012 true story novel titled “Wild: Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”. Her memoir about the real-life challenges she faced along that 1,100-mile trek, in fact, reached #1 on the New York Times’ Best Seller list and made Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club selection.

Director Jean-Marc Vallee (“Dallas Buyers Club”) meticulously takes viewers along Strayed’s arduous path towards self-discovery. Her winding trails from California’s high desert to Oregon’s pristine forest, is marked by Witherspoon’s constant thoughts of anger and guilt. While director Vallee skillfully captures the dangers along the Pacific Crest Trail, its Witherspoon’s extraordinary screen presence that forcefully gains strength and momentum with every mile she hikes.

To Witherspoon’s credit, she really does carry this film upon her shoulders. Found in almost every scene, she demonstrates a range and depth of emotions as vast as the topography she walks. This daunting journey depicts Witherspoon’s defiance, forgiveness, and humor as she forges along with only a backpack–nicknamed The Monster—symbolizing the emotional weight of the heavy burdens she carries inside her.FOX_9534.psd

Witherspoon’s memories of her mother, superbly played by Laura Dern, culminated in Cheryl Strayed’s weakest, darkest moment of her life, as well as, her strongest and most gratifying triumph. Witherspoon flawlessly bounces between intense feelings, attempting to make sense of each emotion along her expedition. Despite the film’s meandering pace as viewers get stuck in Witherspoon’s daily routine, this movie is highly inspiring, immensely enjoyable and emotionally packed.

“Wild” is justifiably generating Oscar buzz for Witherspoon’s remarkable job playing Cheryl Strayed. She’s already earned Best Actress nominations from the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild. With this performance of a lifetime, Witherspoon is assured another Academy Award nomination next month. Following that announcement, expect large masses of moviegoers to trek into theaters to catch this adventure. Happy trails!

Grade: B

“Wild” is rated R with a running time of 1 hour and 55 minutes.

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