This statement is simple, Reese Witherspoon is a 2014 Oscar contender. And the movie she's showing up for is a pretty good one.
Wild is the true story of Cheryl Strayed, a heroin addict who recently (well in the 1990s) destroyed her marriage and lost her mother to disease. As she fights to get her life back together, she decides to undertake a three-month hike across the Pacific Crest Trail.
It's an impressive undertaking to attempt a feature out of such a story, but Jean-Marc Vallée and Nick Hornby really managed to capture that almost insane fever dream feeling one has while wandering alone through the wilderness. I was constantly being reminded of the days I spent camping in my youth (obviously not the heroin or the sex with strangers stuff, but I think you get the point). When a film so accurately captures such an obscure but true to life feeling as that, I can't help but give it props.
So let's get to Reese Witherspoon. She's just damn likable here. We sit there watching her push back into her desperate past and come out really understanding why her character made all those mistakes. And it's somehow relatable. Her pain is believable and her successes and joys are heartwarming and laugh-inducing. I feel like Thomas Sadoski did an excellent job as well. Up till now I hadn't seen him in anything other than The Newsroom... the guy does such a wonderful job of seeming unlikable until you get to know him. It's this strange ability he's managed to cultivate a real career out of. Then, of course, there's Laura Dern playing Strayed's mother. While at first her role seems confused amongst the other fever dreams, she blossoms deep into the later acts of the film. Her perspective on the world is a great one, and she plays it to perfection.
I think I'm actually praising the writing to a great extent when I praise the actors, because their performances are so well informed by a pretty definitive screenplay. I would not sit lazy on the prospect of a Nick Hornby Adapted Screenplay nom here.
Don't know if you could tell, but I liked Wild. Actually, I really liked it. The setting is so cool and that feeling, gah, I wish all movies could capture feelings like that. I really wanna go hiking now!