19 January 2015

One-Star Revue: WILD

One of the less-megaphoned, but (to me) major slights of last week's Oscar nominations was the Academy voters not giving "Wild" the nod for Best Adapted Screenplay. The Nick Hornby-penned (yup, that Nick Hornby) adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's memoir about the time she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and changed her life is the rare film that can be appreciated in tandem with its source material. Director Jean-Marc Vallee took full advantage of the visual medium of film to show us the weird and lonely places on the trail where Strayed wrestled with her demons, while employing voiceover to retain the author's voice in her own story. Watching "Wild" made me want to go back and read WILD, and can you wish for more from a movie adaptation? (See also "Inherent Vice.")

WILD has been out for a while, though, and not everyone feels the same way I do. A particular flashpoint for these reviewers is the popularity of the book after its selection for "Oprah's Book Club 2.0" (is this still happening? I forget!) Normally I disdain the explanation that anyone who dislikes a popular thing is "just jealous," but in a few cases here, it's a close call. I can only think that these people are just missing out on something:
  • "This book is just further proof that it is sex, drugs & rock 'n' roll that sells. If it had ACTUALLY been about the PCT, Oprah never would have read it."
  • "I've been through a number of similar traumas to Strayed. What I didn't do to recover was libel my entire immediate family... or wallow in self-pity for YEARS."
  • "The parts about the hike I did read were good, but I just kept waiting for something to gross me out or make me sad and then decided it wasn't worth it."
  • "There was not enough hiking and true self discovery for me to take this book seriously."
  • "Nearly everyone gets blisters on these long-distance hikes - but complaining about them incessantly is obnoxious."
  • "Strayed includes a list titled "Books Burned on the PCT" - not "Books Read on the PCT"... It's almost as if she's proud of having consigned Faulkner, Nabokov, and Joyce to the flames. So casually does Strayed admit to destroying so much that is beautiful, I'm shocked she actually managed to hike over a thousand miles without starting a forest fire."
  • "I'll admit it right off the bat, I'm not sure this genre is my cup of tea."

P.S. Just for argument's sake, I'd probably bump "The Imitation Game" from its adapted screenplay spot. Such a traditional (boring) biopic for such an extraordinary story. How frustrating.

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