San Diego Film Festival Opening Night – WILD Starring Reese Witherspoon

UPDATE (January 15, 2015): Best Actress Oscar nomination for Reese Witherspoon, and fellow co-star Laura Dern, who plays Witherspoon’s mother in the film, also snagged a Best Supporting Actress nod.

Opening night at the San Diego Film Festival kicked off by screening the anticipated film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild. The line of people waiting to get inside the Reading Cinemas Gaslamp snaked all the way around into 6th Avenue, showing not only how popular the book was, but how much the festival itself has grown over the years.

It’s always going to be tough when such a loved memoir becomes a film. People who read any book first and expect the film version to be a literal translation are normally disappointed or let down when certain details are left out. To give Wild the best possible chance of satisfying even the most critical purist, Nick Hornby was charged with writing the script. Hornby is, in his own right, one of the best working novelists/screen writers in the business, who has successfully adapted his own work into fine movies – High Fidelity, About a Boy, and A Long Way Down among others.

When you’ve got such a compelling story, a solid director (Jean-Marc Vallée), a great cast and the Pacific Crest Trail as a canvas, the pressure is on to deliver an Oscar-level product. Or at least impress the hell out of the packed cinema. And to be fair, I don’t think they dropped the ball for a minute. There’s a good pace throughout the film that constantly checks in with the voice of Strayed (Reese Witherspoon), ensuring the film doesn’t run too far from the original structure. Of course there’s context and details you can’t cover in 115 minutes, but we’d have left the cinema at 9 o’ clock the next day if they’d squashed it all in. More than just staying true to the book, I thought the film did well to capture the early nineties. It felt like being transported back to a very specific time, with certain details threaded in that made me appreciate the movie for so much more than the movie.

It’s likely a combination of Strayed’s unique voice, Hornby’s respect for the work, director Jean-Marc Vallée’s vision and the cast that make it a really watchable movie. At the very least, Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern will break your heart just a little bit.

Wild has a theatrical release date of December 5, 2014. Huge credit must be given to the organizers of this year’s San Diego Film Festival, who’ve done an amazing job of putting together an impressive collection of films, stars and personalities. To see the entire lineup and purchase tickets please visit them online here.

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