Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée.
FILM SYNOPSIS: Based on a true story, the film chronicles a woman's 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from the recent loss of her mother. While on the trek, we get many flashbacks dealing with her relationships and failings.
PREVIEW REVIEW: Even though they were before my time, I have always included films from the Golden Age of Movies in my video library. I find an interesting contrast between actresses of today and those featured in films of a time long gone by. The main difference - how women behaved on screen. Movie stars represented class, no matter the type of character they played. Wow, have times changed. When Helen Gurley Brown, Helen Reddy and Gloria Steinem were striving for women’s rights, did they mean for the ladies to become equally crude? Women have proven themselves able to keep up with men in every arena. Sadly, that includes how they talk. And that equalization detracts from their femininity and it’s hard to equate class with the way women on the screen behave.
About now you’re asking, how did this film review turn into a tirade about the lack of class in the movies? Well…it’s what came to mind after viewing an adulterous, tattooed, obscenity-spewing female trying to find herself on a hiking adventure. Hey, I’m just being honest here; they used to call such a woman “trailer trash.” It dawned on me that the female characters in movies today and the women who play them are not only crude, they’re comfortable with it.
For decades, thespians of the female persuasion have shown an ease with potty mouth, and while this may be an unimportant transgression for today’s cinemagoers, it does define the status of the culture as Hollywood has devolved through the years. Every time Ms. Witherspoon came up against frustration in this film, out popped the now-common vernacular for frustration – either the s- or f-word. And she came up against frustration a lot in Wild. And come to think of it, most of her other films of late.
There is no class among today’s stars, male or female. I don’t even think it’s a missed characteristic in today’s movies. But enough of that. You came for a review, right? I’ll try.
Wild is based on a true story about a woman coming to terms with the loss of her estranged mother, her estranged brother, and her estranged husband. She’s trying to find herself by going hiking. It’s Jack Kerouac for women. Like that author, there’s a defensive, antisocial, defiant nature to Wild’s main character. And even though she comes to terms with these shortcomings by film’s end, she doesn’t realize much other than that she’s a survivor.
It’s beautifully photographed, and splendidly acted, but we have just spent two hours with a narcissist who searches for life’s reason by looking within. That’s a good place to begin, but finding reason within without regard for that spiritual component that coexists with the mental and physical elements of man’s nature is much like believing you’ll find substance in cotton candy.
DVD Alternatives: I REMEMBER MAMA (1948). Irene Dunne, Barbara Bel Geddes. It's an oldie, but it captures the essence of motherhood - nurturing, caring, self-sacrificing. Ms. Dunne portrays the matriarch of a Norwegian immigrant family struggling with life's problems. A great film. You'll need Kleenex!
BABETTE'S FEAST (1987). Winner of that year's Best Foreign Film Oscar and based on a short story by Isak Dinessen, it concerns two sisters in a small Danish town who take in a homeless woman as their servant. More like viewing a fine old painting or enjoying a sumptuous meal, it is a remarkable example that American filmmakers could take a lesson from.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1946). This French version of the classic tale is a masterpiece. I think the ladies will find it romantic, if you don't mind subtitles. Stars Jean Marais and directed by renowned French director Jean Cocteau.
SARAH PLAIN AND TALL (1991). Glenn Close and Christopher Walken star in this Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-TV movie about a woman in the 1880s who answers an ad to share a life on a Kansas farm. Superb.
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (1995). Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant. PG (no profanity, no sexual situations, no violence--just great storytelling). An engrossing screenplay by the film's star, Emma Thompson, from the Jane Austen romance novel about two sisters discovering the joys and tribulations of young love. Set in prim and proper 18th-century England, the beautifully photographed and splendidly acted melodrama is full of humor, wit, and passion.
THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL (1985). Geraldine Page. Simple but well-told story of a discontented widow who decides to make a last pilgrimage to her childhood home. Page won Best Actress for her wonderfully textured performance. The beautiful rendition of "Softly and Tenderly" by Christian performer Cynthia Clawson is worth the rental price. PG (contains a couple of expletives).
ENCHANTED APRIL (1992). Joan Plowright, Polly Walker. A delightful fable about four women in the 1920s escaping their repressed lifestyles in London by renting a castle in Portofino. They soon discover the estate has a magical effect on all those who stay there. Witty dialogue, dreamy cinematography, and savory performances. At last, a PG film with no sexual activity, profane language, violence, or religion-bashing. A romantic comedy that nourishes the spirit.
THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999). True story of Alvin Straight’s patient odyssey from Laurens, Iowa to Mt. Zion, Wisconsin to visit an estranged brother. Unable to drive and with no other option open to him, Alvin was forced to make the journey on a lawnmower. He encounters a number of strangers, from a teenage runaway to a fellow WWII veteran. By sharing his life’s earned wisdom, Alvin has a profound impact on these people. Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Harry Dean Stanton. Rated G.