Review: Wild (book and movie)

Let me get this out of the way right up front. Neither the book nor the movie were at all what I was expecting. I’m reviewing them together as the movie very closely follows the book, unlike many movie adaptations today. I guess, with that in mind, I can’t say the movie was a total surprise since I’d read the book first.

Here’s what I thought I was getting. A woman’s adventure hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, complete with her personal observations on what worked and what didn’t. Basically, her adventures on the trail.

Here’s what I got. A woman who’s life has been falling apart for quite some time, despite the fact that she’s only 26, decides to embark upon a journey of self-discovery on the Pacific Crest Trail. Roughly half of said journey is spent inside her own head, revisiting traumatic experiences (many of them self-inflicted) and infidelities. Much of the time actually spent on the trail is focused on the ridiculously large pack she carries and the ill-fitting boots she wears.

See, here’s what happened. I saw a trailer for the movie version of Wild at the beginning of one or another movie we’d picked up at Redbox. The trailer focused on the hiking and the camping, the difficulties and such. Plus, I and my wife both like Reese Witherspoon. She’s a tremendously talented actress who’s often a lot of fun. So, a week or two later when I saw a copy of the book at a bookstore, I bought it without even glancing through it.

Now, to be fair, this isn’t a bad book. Cheryl Strayed is actually a pretty talented writer. My problem isn’t with the competency of the writing but with the perceived misrepresentation of the story. I signed on for hiking, camping, encounters with wild animals and Mother Nature. What I got was whining, innumerable flashbacks to sex and drug use, and then a bit more whining.

The movie was well done. The scenery was outstanding and, thankfully, the movie wasn’t filled with “shaky cam” like so many films today. Ms. Witherspoon does quite well in the role. She’s very believable. But, again, the movie I saw wasn’t the movie I’d been led to believe it would be. There weren’t quite as many flashback scenes as there are in the book, of course, but there’s still quite a few. Not quite as much whining as in the book, either, which was refreshing.

Now, why in the world would I have wanted to see the movie after having read the book? I figured I’d give it a shot and see if it mirrored the book or if it followed more closely the way the trailer made it look.

All in all, like I said, the book nor the movie are inherently bad. Both are well executed and interesting. But, if you’re looking for a true “trail” book, you’re going to have to search elsewhere.

For those interested, the book and the movie are both available from Amazon.

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