Sunday, December 07, 2014

"Wild": Reese Witherspoon takes us on a "troubled" scenic tour of the Pacific Crest Trail

The third film for this weekend of “travel at the movies” was “Wild”, by Jean-Marc Vallee, with Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed, a young woman wanting to take a summer off from a troubled life by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, or PCT (link ) from the Mexican border to Canada. The movie is based on Strayed's memoir book "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail". 
The movie starts with her losing a shoe to gravity, and throwing the other one down in a temper tantrum.  That’s half way through her journey.  She improvises out of that one. 
The film is filled with little flashbacks, of her stormy relationship with her husband in Minneapolis, followed by divorce, and the loss of her mother (Laura Dern), to cancer, after she had tried to better herself from waitressing and become a teacher.  There are sessions in tattoo parlors and experiments with drugs.  But the details don’t matter too much,
Along the way (after some inadequate preparation), she meets a variety of characters, some of whom are potentially dangerous to her.  She has to display a lot of street smarts to deal, for example, with the risks of hitchhiking.
I’ve never been much for putting up a tent so it will stay up – even in Army Basic bivouac.
But the star of this movie is the scenery.  The locations most used are the southern deserts, some of Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada, some of what looks like the Klamath are near the Oregon border (including the town of Ashland, Oregon), Crater Lake, the Mount Hood area, and finally the Bridge of the Gods across the Columbia River (into Washington) where the film ends.  The film is shot 2.35:1 and should be seen on a large screen.

I love that little red fox that shows up two or three times and makes eye contact with her.  
I am familiar with some of this from rental car trips, like the Klamath area (1975), Crater Lake (1978), Mt. Hood and the Columbia River (1996).  Since her hike starts in June, I was surprised to see snow even in Sequoia National Park.  In May 2012 I was in the Mono Lake and then Mammoth Lakes area, and drove up Tioga Pass (east of the PCT), and found no snow until 9000 feet.
The official site is here  (Fox Searchlight).
I saw the film at Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield VA late Sunday afternoon before a nearly full auditorium.
The obvious comparison for this film will be Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild” with Emile Hrsch, with its excruciating ending (Sept. 30, 2007).  Another would be “127 Hours” with James Franco (Nov. 21, 2010).  A lesser known gem is John Swon’s “Jerome’s Razor” (2002), from Minnesota to New Mexico, with Mark Parrish.
Wikipedia attribution link for Mt. Hood picture (author "EncMstr" under CC-SA 3.0 Commons unported license, GNU). 

The name of the trail is "Pacific Crest Trail" running through the Sierra Nevada and Cascades. I don't find a "coast trail" through the (mostly lower) Coast Mountains (that run up to Olympic National Park, which I have visited in 1996).  Is there one?  

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