AWFJ Movie of the Week, Dec. 1-7: WILD

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Opening Dec. 3, the AWFJ Movie of the Week is WildJean-Marc Vallee’s follow-up to 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club, which won stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively (and was also nominated for Best Picture). Expect similar accolades for Reese Witherspoon, as critics are calling her lead performance one of the best of her career. She takes the role of real-life hiker Cheryl Strayed, who embarked on an 1,100 mile solo trek along the challenging Pacific Crest Trail in a bid to overcome the untimely death of her mother. It’s a raw and honest turn from Witherspoon, who also produced the film, showcasing both her natural talent and impressive dramatic range. Read on…

In adapting Strayed’s memoir, Nick Hornby has brought both Cheryl’s story and her character to vivid life, both though her solitary, reflective journey and through her relationship with her late mother (played by the great Laura Dern). And Vallee handles the story with the skill we’ve come to expect, embracing both the expanse of nature and the intimate emotional conflicts that Strayed must overcome. A fascinating story told entirely from the perspective of a thoroughly interesting woman, Wild is one of the year’s very best.

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panelists Comments:

MaryAnn Johanson: My pick is Wild, an extraordinary film that doesn’t depict simply one woman’s outdoor adventure but illuminates a particularly female perspective on the world that I don’t think any movie has ever shown before.

Nell Minow: Wild: Reese Witherspoon as producer and star seems like exactly the right person to bring this external and internal journey story to screen.

Pam Grady: Reese Witherspoon delivers one of her finest performances as a woman seeking to find herself during a perilous sole hike in Wild, Jean-Marc Vallee’s soulful adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s acclaimed memoir.

Anne Brodie: Wild is an extraordinary experience, a spiritual and emotional coming of age for a mourning daughter set against nature. A perfect film from Jean-Marc Vallée and awards-worthy performance from Reese Witherspoon.

Jennifer Merin: Wild puts best-selling author Cheryl Strayed’s eponymous memoir on the big screen. Reese Witherspoon plays the diarist who hikes solo along the Pacific Crest Trail, a 1000 mile treacherous but scenic mountain trek. Her goal is to test herself and to overcome her addictions and other self-destructive habits. Witherspoon’s well-paced performance traverses all the highs and lows of Strayed’s journey. The film is at once gripping and inspirational. The cinematography is great. We have here an epic journey of self discovery.

Sheila Roberts: My recommendation is Wild, director Jean-Marc Vallee’s impressive follow-up to last year’s “Dallas Buyers Club.” It’s a compelling film about determination, rebirth and taking the road less traveled featuring a terrific performance by Reese Witherspoon. Inspired by a true story of personal triumph, Nick Hornby’s script and Witherspoon’s portrayal of Cheryl Strayed and her 1,100 mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail are refreshing in the way they refuse to play into stereotypes.

Film Details:

Title: Wild

Director: Jean-Marc Vallee

Release Date: Dec. 3, 2014

Running Time: 114 minutes

Language: English

Shooting Location(s): Bend, OR; Ashland, OR; Vancouver, WA

Principal Cast: Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, Thomas Sadoski, W. Earl Brown, Kevin Rankin, Michiel Huisman, Gaby Hoffman, Keene McRae

Screenwriter: Nick Hornby

Production Company: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Pacific Standard

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Official Website


AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Nikki Baughan, Anne Brodie, Pam Grady, Leba Hertz, MaryAnn Johanson, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Rebecca Murray, Kristy Puchko, Carrie Rickey, Sheila Roberts, Jeanne Wolf, Sara Vizcarrando.

Other Movies Opening the Week of Dec. 1-5, 2014:

Dec. 3

Wild (Limited)

Dec. 5

Dying of the Light
The Pyramid
Comet (Limited)
Life Partners (Limited)

Edited by Sandra Kraisirideja, Associate Editor

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Nikki Baughan

Nikki Baughan is a London-based freelance film critic and features writer. Formerly editor of both Film Review and movieScope magazines, Nikki is currently contributes to various print and online publications, including Screen International, BFI, The List and Film Divider.