Wild Parent Review
Viewers may have a variety of reactions to this film. While it's commendable that Stayed reconciles her past, parents may be concerned about how teens interpret it.
There’s an old adage about “walking it off”, whether it applies to anger, frustration or a multitude of other feelings. In Wild, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) carries her emotional baggage in a very literal way as she embarks on a trek of the Pacific Crest Trail (known as the PCT) with a backpack that likely matches her body weight. Starting in the Mojave Desert of California, the inexperienced hiker huffs and puffs her way through a few miles each day. As the audience, our journey is to discover what motivates Strayed to punish herself in such a deliberate manner.
Cheryl Stayed (this movie is based on her memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,) was married at the age of 19. But when her mother (played by Laura Dern) died a few years later, Stayed rapidly fell into a psychological decline that led her to become sexually promiscuous and addicted to heroin. Her history, including the impact of her physically abusive father, is unveiled during a multitude of flashbacks that are deftly edited into her experiences on the PCT.
As she travels through deserts, snow drifted mountains and rain forests, Stayed meets a multitude of people—including a few men who range from sexual opportunists (after begging a ride into town, an older tractor-riding guy implies she can come home with him where they can have a shower—turns out he’s married too) to outright predators. However there are a few decent males in this female-driven movie, like the one that helps her trim down her gear, continuing the metaphor of emotional weight. Perhaps the most noble is her ex-husband, Paul (Thomas Sadoski). He leaves her letters of encouragements at various waypoints.
Over the course of Stayed’s quest to understand her wild life, we see scenes of sexual activity with nudity, along with conversations laced with innuendo and vulgar comments. The script features over two-dozen sexual expletives, terms of deity and scatological slang. Drug use is depicted (needle injections and smoking), as well as alcohol abuse. Yet, admittedly, the most wincing moment is watching the protagonist peel a bloodied toenail off of her damaged foot.
As for the hope of a positive message by trail’s end, viewers may have a variety of reactions depending on their own life’s experiences. Stayed’s conclusion, as stated in the narration, is she wouldn’t do a thing differently, reasoning “What if all those things I did are the things that got me here?” While it’s very commendable she has reconciled her past, parents may be concerned teens might interpret the lessons from her right of passage to mean we must subject ourselves to high-risk behavior before we can learn to appreciate the simple joy of a long walk in the park.Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Gaby Hoffmann, Laura Dern, Michiel Huisman. Running time: 116 minutes. Theatrical release December 5, 2014. Updated May 18, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Wild here.
Wild Parents Guide
The Pacific Crest Trail runs from the Mexican to the Canadian borders and was developed over most of the 20th century, finally being declared finished in 1993. Time.com offers a brief history. While the scenery in Wild is beautiful, much of it was not filmed on the Pacific Coast Trail due to fear of damaging the fragile ecology with large film crews and equipment.
In her memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed kept her ex-husband’s identity private, using the pseudonym Paul. However Marco Littig from Missoula, Montana is the man who continued to encourage his former wife and assisted her through her darkest times. The UK paper, The Daily Mail, offers an exclusive interview and calls him, “The real hero [of the] new movie Wild”.
Few leading roles are available for women in Hollywood. Reese Witherspoon is determined to help change that situation by creating a production company called Pacific Standard. So far this company has produced Wild, Gone Girl and The Good Lie.
From the Studio:
With the dissolution of her marriage and the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed has lost all hope. After years of reckless, destructive behavior, she makes a rash decision. With absolutely no experience, driven only by sheer determination, Cheryl hikes more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, alone. WILD powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddens, strengthens, and ultimately heals her. - © Fox Searchlight