Reese Witherspoon takes ‘Wild’ ride at Telluride into Oscars race

A year after helming “Dallas Buyers Club,” which won Oscars for both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, Jean-Marc Vallee returns with “Wild,” another true-life story about overcoming adversity. Oscar champ Reese Witherspoon (“Walk the Line”) plays Cheryl Strayed who makes a rash decision, after years of reckless behavior, a heroin addiction and the destruction of her marriage. Haunted by memories of her mother Bobbi (Laura Dern) and with absolutely no experience, she sets out to hike more than a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail all on her own. 

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The Fox Searchlight title had its world premiere at the Telluride film festival on Friday in the prestigious Patrons Preview slot, which went to eventual Oscar champ “Argo” two years ago. The studio did well when it launched “The Descendants” in this same way back in 2011. Like both those films, “Wild” will also unspool at the Toronto film festival. However, as per the new TIFF policy of world premieres only in the first four days, it won’t be screen there till Sept. 8. 

Based on early reviews, “Wild” will still be a hot ticket when it gets to Toronto.

Stephen Farber (The Hollywood Reporter) found the film to be “alternately harrowing and heartbreaking, but laced with saving bursts of humor.  The popularity of Strayed’s book and the strong performance by Reese Witherspoon should ensure an audience for the movie and bring more accolades to the director, as well as to screenwriter Nick Hornby (About a Boy, An Education),  who adapts the book with finesse.”

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Justin Chang (Variety) thought Vallee “has elicited from Witherspoon an intensely committed turn that, in its blend of grit, vulnerability, physical bravery and emotional immediacy, represents easily her most affecting and substantial work in the nine years since “Walk the Line.” (The actress’ still-youthful appearance helps fudge her 12-year age gap with the 26-year-old Cheryl, as well as her only nine-year age gap with Dern.) Nor is it a surprise that Vallee, whose bracingly sharp editing on “Dallas Buyers Club” was one of that film’s more unsung virtues, has applied similarly bold cutting-room strategies here.”

And our pal Pete Hammond (Deadline) declared that Witherspoon, who is also a producer, “delivers her best screen work since her Oscar-winning Walk The Line and this three-dimensional portrayal of a woman searching for herself (after a disastrous divorce, her beloved mother’s –perfectly played by Laura Dern — death, sexual promiscuity, drugs and a stint on the streets) is certain to put her back in the thick of the Best Actress race this year.  It’s a whale of a tale and a great role. Witherspoon (who also has The Good Lie  and Inherent Vice upcoming) nails it. “

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2 thoughts on “Reese Witherspoon takes ‘Wild’ ride at Telluride into Oscars race

  1. Jean-Marc Vallée is a truly gifted filmmaker and it’s clear that he has brought the best out of Reese Witherspoon in “Wild”. She goes really against the type here and seems to be indeed intensely committed to her role and putting up possibly her best work to date. That being said, she’s definitely not the kind of actress that deserves a second Oscar nomination. Not in a world where an actress like Marion Cotillard gives the one legendary performance after another and still hasn’t scored a second Oscar nomination (?) The fact that she’s clearly really good in “Wild” isn’t enough to justify the hype she gets. Because let’s be honest, shall we, she is and always be an actress of indisputable talent but also indisputable obvious limitations that are strikingly evident in even her strongest screen work. Make no mistake, this is not at all some hating comment for Witherspoon. She’s talented, that’s for sure, but she belongs to that long list of well known stars like Sandra Bullock and Halle Berry who, while having some undeniable acting virtues and screen magnetism, have also undeniable limitations in terms of acting. They’re not actresses like Marion Cotillard, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet and many more that have never won an Oscar like Isabelle Huppert, Lesley Manville, Jessica Chastain, Amy Adams, Samantha Morton, Emily Watson, just to name a few, all of them actresses of otherwordly talent in acting, tremendous technical skills, obviously limitless depth and an almost terrifying level of commitment to every role they so brilliantly portrays on screen or on stage. And that constant desire to defy every expectation of their audience, approach not even a single role as an Oscar vehicle and take risks that seem almost inconceivable. Well, those ladies deserve five Oscar nominations each. Witherspoon is not even half of the actors they are.

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