Rated 4.0

Reese Witherspoon, in her best role since Walk the Line, plays author Cheryl Strayed, who took it upon herself to do a solo trek on the Pacific Crest Trail after some tragedies in her life. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (The Dallas Buyer's Club), the film winds up not only being a fine showcase for Witherspoon, but a damn fine commercial for the PCT and those REI outdoor gear stores. The film opens on the not-so-pleasant sight of Strayed losing a toenail in bloody fashion to a wrong-sized boot, already days into her trek. It then flashes back a bit to the beginning of her hike, and takes a non-chronological approach to its plot. We see moments in Strayed's life when she makes a lot of mistakes involving infidelity and drugs, interspersed with her experience walking the trail. While being an uplifting film about redemption and Strayed's personal triumphs, the movie also works as an authentic and informative film about the art of hiking. From Strayed's struggles with her super huge backpack, to her reliance on trail tanks for water, to her stopovers at community outposts along the trail, you get a sense of what you might experience on such an expedition. Hopefully, this and her small role in this year's Inherent Vice are indicative of more adventurous choices in Witherspoon's future.