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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Wild

April 9th, 2015

Wild - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Wild is a drama based on a real life person that came out in December. This movie screams Oscar Bait. However, while its reviews were amazing, but it never really became a major player during Awards Season. It did pick up a couple of Oscar nominations, including one for Reese Witherspoon; however, it failed to live up to expectations. Is it busted Oscar-bait? Or should it really have performed better?

The Movie

We first meet Cheryl Strayed as she's hiking. She takes a break and takes off her shoes. By the condition of her feet, you can clearly tell she's be at this a while. It has taken a toll on her body, and as we see in an emotional outburst, on her mind. I'm not saying her response it irrational, but it was counter-productive and she likely would not have done it had she been in a calm state of mind.

What happens next highlights the difficulty in reviewing this movie. We get a flashback. We see Cheryl getting dropped off at a motel. She gets a room and then she calls someone, Paul. The conversation is tense and the pair clearly have a history, but we don't learn what that is till later on. Likewise, after seeing her get ready for her 1,000 mile hike, we see a flashback to Cheryl as a child with her mom. So here's the problem: Do I give details to help contextualize these scenes, even if those details are not revealed to later on? Or do I avoid spoilers, in which case I can only give the basics?

I'm going to go with the latter. Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl Strayed, who in real life had some self-destructive behaviors. After a particularly traumatic event, she decides to hike 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail as a way of clearing the slate and getting control of her life. Storywise, it is compelling to watch, but only if you get into Reese Witherspoon's performance. This film lives and dies based on her and she more than lives up to the task. In fact, she gives arguably the best performance of the year, but ran into some politics when it came to the actual voting. Julianne Moore should have won for one of her four previous Oscar nods and one could argue her winning this year was a make-up win.) On the other hand, one could also argue that the performance was too much Oscar-bait material and that appeals to critics more than the average moviegoer.

While Reese Witherspoon's performance is clearly the most important single factor in Wild's appeal, it isn't the only thing the film has going for it. It looks amazing. The directing and the cinematography create a film that is simply wonderful to look at.

The Extras

The extras begin with an audio commentary track with Jean-Marc Vallée, the director; Bruna Papandrea, one of the producers; and David Greenbaum, the production executive. There are eight minutes of deleted scenes, with optional audio commentary with Jean-Marc Vallée. There is a nine-minute featurette on the real Cheryl Strayed, while there is also a nine-minute featurette on the real locations where they shot the film. How Much Does a Monster Weigh is a four-minute featurette on Monster, the backpack Cheryl Strayed / Reese Witherspoon carried. Cheryl Strayed has a two-minute talk about the Pacific Crest Trail. Finally, there's an interactive map of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The technical presentation is excellent. I already mentioned how great the film looks and the video shows off the amazing landscapes Cheryl Strayed traveled through. The details are sharp and the colors are stunning. I don't know why, but natural greens just make high definition look better. The audio is good, but not as good as the video. There's no issues with clarity, but it is not as active a track as I was expecting.

The Blu-ray costs $20, which is $5 or 33% more than the DVD. This is exactly what you would expect from a release like this.

The Verdict

Wild is led by a simply marvelous performance by Reese Witherspoon and the natural wonders she traveled through to make this movie. The DVD or Blu-ray is absolutely worth picking up and a contender for Pick of the Week.


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Filed under: Video Review, Wild, Laura Dern, Julianne Moore, Thomas Sadoski, Reese Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea, Jean-Marc Vallee, Cheryl Strayed, Bobbi Strayed Lindstrom