There’s a time-honored tradition of the Academy honoring A-list actors who put themselves through the mill with harrowing, stripped-down performances. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto took home trophies last year for playing individuals afflicted with AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club, James Franco cut off his arm and got a nod for 127 Hours, and Naomi Watts took on a tsunami and came out with a nomination for The Impossible, to give some recent examples. I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice to say, Reese Witherspoon is undoubtedly gunning for some attention this year with Wild, in which she plays a woman who embarks on a 1,100-mile journey of self-discovery across America.
It’s perhaps a little cynical to dismiss this venture, based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, as purely an awards hopeful, but the trailer certainly paints it in that light. However, whether Fox Searchlight and Witherspoon’s intentions are pure or not, it will certainly be exciting to watch the talented actress get back to basics with another lead performance. Though the supporting cast includes Gaby Hoffmann, Laura Dern, Michiel Huisman, Charles Baker, Kevin Rankin and Thomas Sadoski, Wild looks like a one-woman show through and through. Luckily, we know that Witherspoon has the ability to deliver the goods, as she has with past performances in Walk the Line, Election and, more recently, Mud.
Further boosting the film’s chances of success are its writer and director. Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) penned the script, which means we can prepare for a whole lot of inspirational quotables, and Dallas Buyers Club helmer Jean-Marc Vallee is sitting behind the camera on Wild. Will lightning strike twice for the helmer, whose last film garnered six Oscar nominations including one for Best Picture?
We’ll of course have to wait and see, but early signs seem to point towards Wild being a contender despite this year’s packed race. The film opens on December 5th, just one week before presumed heavyweights Exodus: Gods and Kings and Inherent Vice.