Sunday, January 18, 2015

Wild versus Wild: The movie or the book?

A movie that generated many expectations. Did it live up to the book? Read on.

Many acclaimed books are made into movies. Some are successful, some unsuccessful. "Wild" was author Cheryl Strayed's first book, but it was a #1 New York Times bestseller and also a part of Oprah's book club 2.0. 

This book is a must read for those who at any point in their lives, felt that they let themselves or their loved ones down, those who want to better understand how to accept the loss of a loved one, or those who simply have to prove something to themselves. Contrary to what one might think, proving yourself to the world is a lot easier because if you fail, you'll let them down, compared to proving something to yourself because there is no place to hide if you fail to prove that thing to yourself. 

And this is true for men and women alike. Finding a purpose for life is much more than taking care of a partner & children, that the purpose of life is beyond conforming to the norms of society which never did anything for you, and that even if your life revolves around your mother and father and brother and sister and son and daughter, the purpose of life has to go even above them because, well, you can do nothing with that purpose when they've seen everything you did and return to the elements, leaving you with nothing else to do!

Anyway, back to this book. It talks about Cheryl who took her mother's untimely death very hard. Unable to accept her loss, she took to a dangerous life of endless flings, heroin, destroyed her marriage, and nearly destoryed herself...

Until one fine day, an unexpected pregnancy pulled the brakes on her stray lifestyle. On a whim, on an instinct, decided to hike the scenic yet ardous Pacific Crest Trail spanning the west coast of the United States. She started off with a gigantic, impractical burden of a backpack "Monster" which she could not even lift off the floor (and when she eventually did, herself fell on the floor), to carrying a full packet of condoms for the trail thinking ... with the wrong body part!

She thought she had done enough preparation, only to realize after being on the trail, that you are never prepared for anything in life until you actually experience it.

She eventually got to a point when, with some help, she was able to throw away the unwarranted burden, one by one. Finally, she let go of what she had hiked for when she lost one of the most important things she thought she needed - her hiking shoes, which in fact, had brought her more pain than comfort. 
It was only when her shoes got rid of her that she was able to truly let out her anger over her mother's loss. That in turn allowed her to truly grieve and accept that her mother will never come back again, ironically setting the stage for her to become the woman her mother wanted her to be.

We all lose possessions and people in our lives. Some of the losses are easier to accept, some seem next to impossible. This book tellls us that, despite those losses, we are still ALIVE.

Alive, for a reason.

It may take an entire lifetime to figure out that life purpose. That purpose may simply be to be happy or to toil without reward - but it is essential to find the purpose, otherwise the true meaning of our human existence may never be fulfilled.

Such a beautiful book. Such edge of the seat writing by Cheryl. You almost feel as if you were next to her while she trudged along with Monster all the way from California to the Bridge of the Gods in Oregon, sensing her trauma as she went through it all.

Now, movie adaptations have high expectations to live up to and may not be as stellar as the books themselves, which is understandable. Which brings us to the point - what were the makers of the movie thinking?

Resse Witherspoon is undeniably a superlative actress. The 38 year old easily passes off as a 20-something in the film and does complete justice to her character. The cinematography is brilliant and the wildnerness captured in the camera complements her struggle, desperation, and loneliness perfectly. 

But for a tale of such depth, and a character with so much complexity, the movie fails to impress. The makers appear to have assumed that everyone who would watch the movie would have already read the book, because nowhere they have spent any time explaining why Cheryl "Strayed" and did everything she did (including hike the PCT) in the first place. 

Barring the scenes where the lines are taken off as-is from the book, the storyline borders on being undecipherable. It would have probably made more sense for the makers to have considered those who have not yet read the book and went to watch the film on hearsay, the film possibly inspiring them enough to pick up the book. 

That, in my opinion, is a great movie. 

My recommendation: If you have read the book and want to watch the movie, go without expectations and don't compare the movie to the book, and enjoy Reese's performance. And if you haven't read the book, get off your bottoms and laptops/ipads and get yourself a copy! It is truly worthy of being in your library.

Reese Witherspoon in a still from Wild

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