Buy Wild (2014) – Jean-Marc Vallee
Once again Vallee has directed a star to one of their best performances. Witherspoon attacks this part with total commitment. She’s aiming, and succeeding, at giving a great performance. It’s either her best or her second best; I’d need to revisit Walk the Line to see if it’s better than her performance there. She plays a deeply troubled woman, suffering from protracted grief and self-loathing; they’ve driven her to dangerously promiscuous sex and severe drug use. And so she steps out of her life and sets out to walk the Pacific Coast Trail, hoping to find herself or redemption or peace or anything, just anything at all, during her time in the wilderness. Vallee’s direction is stunning, his use of images and sound design immersing us in this character’s emotional world beautifully. The film shifts and slips between times and places, but Witherspoon’s performance keeps us anchored for every moment of the film. Thomas Sadoski gives a deep, soulful performance as her ex-husband, one worth singling out. It’s a film shot through with sorrow and regret, but it’s ultimately hopeful, if carefully so, about our ability as humans to rise above the things that keep us down. Witherspoon’s performance, the artful direction and the beautiful script all combine to form a character of great emotional darkness, a truly disturbed person. But the film holds out hope for her and for all of us and, as with Dallas Buyers Club, Vallee’s previous film, the movie makes this hope feel real, earned and not at all cheap or hokey. Wild is a great achievement and signals great things to come from both Vallee and Witherspoon. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – Witherspoon’s performance and Vallee’s direction are both absolutely superlative in this dark, but ultimately hopeful, drama. 4 stars.