12/05/14 2:00pm
12/05/2014 2:00 PM |


Early in Wild, during one of the movie’s many flashbacks from a very long Pacific Crest Trail hike, Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) chooses herself the new last name of Strayed, and I’m thinking: great, a scene with a big life change that looks suspiciously like a memoirist choosing a pen name. But the movie breaks down memoir resistance, if you have it (and if you don’t, I’ve got plenty to go around), through its steady accumulation of moments: Cheryl’s often-lonely struggles on the trail—she’s a novice hiker outfitted with a pack so large she can barely stand up—along with the additional struggles that brought her into the wild, namely the death of her beloved mother (Laura Dern, handy casting shortcut for “beloved”).