By Emma Way
Cheryl Strayed’s emotional account of her 94-day, 1,100 mile hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” left me in tears upon finishing her memoir just as my flight was landing in Belgium for my first mini-adventure during my semester abroad. I was inspired and also a little embarrassed for sobbing on a flight surrounded by strangers – but mostly inspired.
The film adaption, “Wild” starring Reese Witherspoon, on the other hand, took me three tries to get all the way through without falling asleep. It’s not that it is a bad movie. It is actually a very accurate adaption, and Witherspoon’s acting portrays a lot of what I felt while reading Strayed’s writing. Many other critics praise this adaptation, and although I certainly see the value, I felt more bored than inspired.
This could be because of a million reasons. Full disclosure, I am terrible at watching movies. I often fall asleep or get bored and painfully restless until I finally turn it off. I almost never go to the movie theatre because I know that 80 percent of the time I won’t even make it through the previews before I knock out. I much prefer television and reading so the story can be told on my own time.
All this being said, I’ll try to look at the film “Wild,” directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, as someone who can sit through an entire movie like an adult.
Strayed’s honesty of the years leading up to her hike, as well as the act of hiking for nearly 100 days itself, roped me in and refused to let go. Her love/hate relationship with challenges followed me all over Europe even after I finished her memoir and watched the film adaptation.
Although she is battling loss and addiction, a sense of peace washes over the dark themes when she discusses the exciting and terrifying, yet also monotonous, act of hiking for three months. This, among other things, made me want to strap my life on my back and see the beauty and excitement that is all over the world – and that is, to an extent, what I did for a month of living on trains, in dirty hostels, or on questionable couches.
The film addresses her past but not in the great detail I saw in Strayed’s memoir. In the book, Strayed focuses more on the emotions that came with losing her mother, but the movie focuses more on the unhealthy aftermath of Strayed’s abuse of drugs and sex. The scene where Strayed had sex with two male customers in the alley behind the diner she works at, for example, never happened.
There were also some basic changes from the book to the movie, which I didn’t quite understand. For one, Strayed’s stepfather is not mentioned once in the movie, and her family is displayed as a single mom and two kids, leaving out not only Strayed’s stepfather but also her sister. I feel like these changes weakened the movie and removed some of the complexity between Strayed and her family.
Despite the occasional burst of boredom while watching the movie “Wild,” I’m glad I stuck with it. I learned a lot about overcoming hardships and putting myself “in the way of beauty” through Strayed’s life, and I was able to see how her life was portrayed differently in the book versus the movie. Although I cannot fully relate to the insurmountable grief Strayed felt and wrote about in great length, I can relate to the feeling of wanting to get away and be alone, and after reading and watching “Wild,” I only wanted to do that more.