Wild – LFF Review

Wild

NOTE: For this review to work please pretend that Walk the Line never happened as I didn’t see it and forgot it existed…

As an actor you can make lots of lucrative, fun but unfulfilling films in your youth but to extend your career it helps to make the shift towards more respectable fare. Last year Jean-Marc Vallée directed Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club and took him from being the lead in mediocre romantic comedies to winning an Oscar in a single film. This year Vallée is back with Reese Witherspoon as the actor getting a career revamp, and probably an Oscar nomination, in Wild.

Based on the autobiographical novel by Cheryl Strayed, and adapted for the screen by the great Nick Hornby, Wild tells the story of Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) as she walks the 1,100 mile Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican to Canadian border. Having lost her husband following a sex and drugs downward spiral and a family crisis Cheryl decides what she needs is time to clear her head and find herself. Alongside danger, exhaustion, and pain walking this distance offers up plenty of solitude and time for reflection. As she walks Cheryl meets mostly friendly strangers and looks back on the mistakes she has made in her life so far. The further Cheryl walks the more she grows and the greater the understanding the audience gains of her character and why she felt the need to embark on this long journey.

Wild 2

Witherspoon is clearly looking to put a stake in the ground and mark out a new start for her career. Far away from her Legally Blonde days Wild allows her to give a complex grown up performance as a woman who is a three-dimensional human being and not a caricature. While not a subtle film there is room for Witherspoon to demonstrate scope and depth in her acting as she plays an incredibly complicated woman who has made some truly awful decisions. The role of Cheryl does not always put Witherspoon in a flattering light and requires a certain level of exposure both emotional and physical. If nothing else Wild shows a commitment to real acting rarely seen from this particular performer. The film rests on her shoulders and she bears the burden well.

Wild is a beautifully shot film with some great performances and a witty script. While not offering anything cinematically innovative it conjures up a great sense of adventure alongside a dramatic tale of loss and errors in judgement. I am an absolute sucker for any film even remotely resembling a road trip and Wild sufficed in making me wanting to strap on a bag and walk until my feet fall off. The film earns bonus points for expertly representing the almost orgasmic relief felt when taking off hiking boots after a lengthy journey.

A solid film with a tough story to tell, Wild showcases new facets to Witherspoon’s acting chops and announces her as an actor to keep your eye on even at this stage in her career.

Wild has a UK release date of 16th January 2015 and screens at the London Film Festival on the 16th of October 2014.

BFI LFF 2014

This Means War – Review

McG has always been pretty much hit and miss. Well, not hit and miss per se; he hits every time but the quality of that hit only really makes it to first base, never coming close to a home run (to use an embarrassingly bad analogy). He’s directed the Charlie’s Angels movies, the [mostly] uninspiring Terminator Salvation and has been behind television shows such as angsty The O.C. and spy-comedy, Chuck. These were enjoyable for what they were supposed to be but were, for the most part, also stamped with far too many lingering shots of women jiggling their jugs, cringeworthy humour, OTT action and plots that bordered on the inconceivable.

This Means War appears to be more of the same from good ol’ McG: two male spies fancy a lady, the lady sells herself out dating both of them and we watch as all morals collapse into nothingness as the two professionals quickly turn into children with the power of the CIA behind them as they fight not for love, but for laughs, bragging rights and, well, Reese Witherspoon (oh, wow, winner). I’ve read tweets calling for the film to have been released on February 14th because they think this is a romantic film. Spoiler alert: it is not. Not remotely. But it is a hoot.

Packed with emasculating humour and the aforementioned boobs and action, This Means War is an enjoyable film at best. Surprisingly, it may be one of McG’s better outings as the cheesiness of it never really quite reaches the unbearable embarrassment of Charlie’s Angels or The O.C. Obviously, however, such corny laughs just aren’t for everyone as was proved to me by the gentleman I was sat next to whom barely cracked a smile whilst the rest of the auditorium was heaving with guilty laughter at some of the film’s more funny moments.

The surprises keep rolling as what I had assumed would be the worst part of This Means War (the casting of such talents as Captain James T. Kirk and Charles Bronson in a ‘romcom’) actually turns out to be a spot of excellence. Like the success of Gerard Butler before him, Tom Hardy’s tough guy image paired with his Britishness immediately makes you wonder why he hasn’t been in more comedy films before and Chris Pine is just a sexy hunk with a sharp tongue whom I’m sure all the ladies of today’s generation “well fancy”. On the female batting team is Reese Witherspoon who puts in an okay performance as the ‘lucky’ lady but Chelsea Handler’s arrogant best friend role is just genius, stealing any scene she’s in, and then there’s also the cute Rosemary Harris (Aunt May, people!) who I just wanted to hug and never let go of.

Going to see This Means War is a bit like when you go clubbing and realize you could have just as much fun at home with a cup of tea, but you still enjoy all the incomprehensible goings on in front of you as the overlaid heavy beats of techno and rap attempt to destroy your ears – because McG still thinks he’s 14, obviously. You might regret not seeing it at the cinema with friends but shame on you if you enjoy it just as much when you make the guilty pleasure purchase of it on DVD.