I wasn’t particularly wild about Wild. And I didn’t read the best-selling book, so I can’t really compare the two. But friends tell me the book is much stronger in terms of developing the peripheral characters who crossed the path of the real-life Cheryl Strayed. Reese Witherspoon portrays Strayed, a hiking novice who decides that a solo, thousand-mile trek across the Pacific Crest Trail could make her a better person. She’s been dealing with a lot – the dissolution of her marriage (to a good guy) after years of reckless, destructive behavior, and the death of her mother (played in flashbacks by a superb Laura Dern). It’s an ambitious and cathartic adventure that I can admire in theory, but certainly don’t envy or care to emulate. So more power to her! And to her ginormous backpack and bloodied toenails!
A similar-themed movie called Tracks came out a few months earlier with far less fanfare, but a much stronger lead performance – from Mia Wasikowska, who plays a young woman who goes on a 1,700-mile trek across the deserts of West Australia, though not alone. She’s got four camels and a dog with her. The movie as a whole felt a bit tedious, but Wasikowska – and Adam Driver, as a National Geographic photographer – deliver solid performances, and the cinematography is stunningly desolate.
Bottom line: Wild (and Tracks) will appeal most to hikers, hiker-wannabes, and Eat Pray Love enthusiasts. For those who prefer a nice two-mile stroll around the lake, both movies are rentals at best.