Friday, December 5, 2014

Wild [2014]

MPAA (R)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review  

Wild [2014] (directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, screenplay by Nick Hornby based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed [IMDb]) tells the a compelling story of a young 20-something woman Cheryl Strayed (played in the film by Reese Witherspoon) whose life disintegrated into a chaotic mess after her mother Bobbi (played by Laura Dern), 45, first was suddenly diagnosed of having cancer and then rapidly died of it (within a month).

In the chaotic aftermath, Cheryl had perhaps married the right guy, Paul (played by Paul Sadoski), but certainly at a terrible time.  The result was that she just spiraled down, having sex repeatedly with random men, acquiring a heroin habit along the way, smashing a marriage that could have perhaps worked in other, better circumstances, but certainly NOT in the circumstances that she found herself in.

Couldn't she get help?  Honestly, for many people WHERE???  Bobbi/Cheryl's family WAS NOT WEALTHY.  There's a great scene in the film, a flashback when she did have a session with a counselor.  She asks: "Shouldn't there be a couch and some kleenex somewhere."  Instead, she's meeting the counselor in what seems to be a community college classroom.  He tells her calmly but directly: "That would be $50/hr therapy.  What you're getting here is $10/hr therapy..."

FOR ALL THOSE WHO'VE MADE IT A VIRTUAL DOGMA OF "FAITH" TO OPPOSE "OBAMA CARE" ... THIS IS OUR NATION'S HEALTH CARE SYSTEM.  OBAMA CARE WAS GOING TO MAKE THINGS MARGINALLY BETTER ... BUT STILL UNBEARABLY HOPELESS TO BASIC MENTAL HEALTH CARE.  We are NOT EVEN CLOSE when it comes to being "The Greatest Country in the World" when it comes to providing affordable health care to either people like Bobbi (people DON'T DIE IN A MONTH of Cancer unless they come to the doctor REALLY, REALLY LATE, or their affordable treatment options are NIL) or Cheryl (even TODAY there is NOTHING SERIOUS THAT THIS COUNTRY WOULD HAVE AVAILABLE TO HER IN HER NEED).

So, a smashed marriage, and an apparent abortion after conceiving by anyone of a random number of men later and LUCKY SHE DIDN'T GET HIV OR HEP ... she did what a lot of people over the ages have done in times of otherwise unbearable personal crisis: She decided to walk ... The Pacific Crest Trail.

By her own admission, this was something of a random decision.  However, she decided that she was going to "Walk her way back into being the woman that her mother thought she was."

So then, what this story is about, is this woman's "walk" back to sanity.

Look, I'm a Catholic priest, so for me the Religious theme here is obvious.  Indeed, I've reviewed two recent films on my Blog about the increasing popularity of walking the "Camino de Santiago de Compostela" (The Way [2010] directed by Emilio Estevez and starring Martin Sheen, and then the documentary Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago [2013]).

Journey, Pilgrimage is an obvious metaphor for LIFE - which itself, like it or not, is "a journey."  NONE OF US STAY "IN THE SAME PLACE."  OUR LIFE even HISTORY is always moving, even if we wish they were not.

-- In Buddhism, "Change" is seen as the fundamental source of "Sadness" (Samsara -- the title of ANOTHER recent film that I reviewed here on my blog).

-- The foundational experience of Biblical Israel was its 40 year "Journey in the Desert" from "Slavery in Egypt" to "The Promised Land" recounted in the Torah / Pentateuch (the first five books in the Bible). 

-- To this day, the Israelites' 40 year "Journey in the Desert to the Promised Land" becomes the metaphorical backdrop to the Catholic Church's annual 40 day observance of Lent in preparation for Easter (Jesus' Resurrection seen as "the first fruits" / a "prefigurement" of OUR ENTRY into A FINAL "PROMISED LAND" (Heaven) after "The Journey of Earthly Life")

-- In Islam, the making of the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, _at least once_ in one's life is a fundamental duty of all Muslims.

All this is to say that the idea of finding Truth, Wellness, Healing, Insight, Purpose, HOPE while "on a/the Journey" is a concept appreciated by many, many sages / religions across the ages.

But here it must be said, that certainly in the film Cheryl Strayed did not embark on this journey for ANY religious motivation.  Should that matter?

I would say emphatically NO.  This was a woman who desperately needed help, to bring her life back together, and she tells us that she found new hope, new purpose, a new future as she "walked her way back to being the woman her mother thought her to be."   And honestly, good for you!  And good for the others that her experience may help.

But if you do find God along the Way ... I'm not going to object either ;-)

In any case, a good job!  And a great and hopeful story!

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