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Aristotle said the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Math says the whole is simply equal to the sum of its parts. In the case of Jean-Marc Vallée’s (Dallas Buyers Club) most recent offering, Wild, the whole falls short of equalling its parts.

The story revolves around a woman named Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) who decides to hike over 1000 miles of the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) by herself in order to regain focus, and get her life in order following personal tragedies ranging from her mother dying, to obscene drug use, to very promiscuous sex. Although she hikes primarily alone, she does run into fellow hikers along the way and is guided by delusions of foes and the like.

Reese Witherspoon (Water for Elephants, Walk the Line) brought her character to life in a way that should make the real Cheryl Strayed proud. Laura Dern (Fault in Our Stars) steals the show as Cheryl’s mom, Bobbi Grey. Bobbi is a single mom who rescued herself and her children from an abusive husband/father, yet still strived for a better life for herself and her kids. Bobbi’s seemingly unending positive outlook helped give her daughter the strength she needed to survive tough times. I expect Dern to receive an Oscar consideration for Best Supporting Actress.

The story itself is compelling and warranted, yet the movie is choppy and consistently interrupted with flashbacks, creating a tough-to-follow timeline. It feels as if the viewer has to put way too much effort into putting the pieces of her puzzle together, and although you can do it, it isn’t necessarily worth the effort. Linear storytelling would have benefited Wild greatly. At the end of the day, the narrative’s faults do not effect the power and strength of Cheryl Strayed personal journey.

The writing is very solid and the acting is simply amazing. At the end of the day, this film is a story about pain and subsequent triumph. It is about loss and self-discovery. The movie represents self-reflection and rebirth, and all the steps in-between. Although the flash backs were slightly distracting and had a tendency to take the viewer out of the moment, the emotional impact of the story and message came through, lending credit to director Jean-Marc Vallée.

Wild is streaming now on the following services:
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