Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast acritical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them againsteach other across a variety of categories to determine which is mostdeserving of your two hours. This week: Wild vs. The Good Lie, two films based on a true stories and starring Reese Witherspoon as a character who undergoing a spiritual awakening. Premise2014 might just be Reese Witherspoon’s comeback year. The charming Southern actress will be starring in two films due out this year: Wild and The Good Lie. Both films are based on real events: Wild is based on the best-selling memoir by Cheryl Strayed; The Good Lie on the experiences of Sudanese refugees, known as the “lost boys” in the U.S. In Wild, Strayed, played by Witherspoon, begins at a very low point. Floundering from her mother’s death and a disastrous divorce, she falls down a rabbit hole of heroin abuse and casual sex. To escape from her tumultuous life, she embarks on the 1,100-mile hike across the Pacific Crest Trail, offering the audience a beautiful view of the breathtaking terrain of the American West Coast. The journey is physically and mentally grueling, and ultimately responsible for Strayed’s endless spiritual revelations.
On a similar note, The Good Lie portrays Witherspoon as a woman who indirectly finds herself in a life-changing experience. Witherspoon’s character, Carrie Davis, is assigned to help three Sudanese men—Mamere, Jeremiah, and Paul—assimilate to America. Not only must they adjust to an extremely new culture, but they are also recuperating from the Second Sudanese Civil War in which their parents, neighbors, and friends were murdered. Davis finds herself touched by their likable personalities and harrowing stories and goes out of her way to help them truly make a life for themselves in America, even if that means navigating the bureaucracy-thwarted immigration system. Advantage: The Good Lie
TeamworkThe Good Lie does history and fact justice by casting young Sudanese actors to play the refugees. These actors—Ger Duany, Emmaual Jal, and Kuoth Wiel—have direct ties to the Second Sudanese Civil War, which adds not only depth to their acting, but also an extra layer of authenticity to the film. British-Ugandan actor Arnold Oceng plays the lead role of Mamere, with Corey Stoll of House of Cards as Carrie’s boss. French-Canadian director Philippe Falardeau directs the film, following his 2011 nomination for best foreign film for Monsieur Lazhar.
Wild is also directed by a French-Canadian director, Jean-Marc Vallée, who most recently directed the critically acclaimed Dallas Buyers Club. The film also features Gaby Hoffman as Strayed’s friend and Laura Dern as her mother. Thomas Sadoski, ofThe Newsroom, plays her ex-husband. The screenplay was adapted by novelist Nick Hornby, who was nominated for an Oscar for adapting the screenplay for An Education.Advantage: Wild
Spiritual DevelopmentWhile trekking across the arid Mojave Desert, through California, and all the way up to the Washington-Oregon border, Strayed traveled from point A to point B on an internal level as well. At the onset, Strayed is emotionally unhinged. Throughout her hike, she’s looking to forgive herself, and with all of the alone time in the wilderness, she garners enough to time to come to terms with her past.
Carrie, however, is not looking for an epiphany. When she picks Mamere, Jeremiah, and Paul up from the airport, her first question is, “You must be the guys from Somalia… Senegal?” But she begins to care for the three men, and ultimately they form is a mutually beneficial friendship.Advantage: Tie
Academy OddsReese Witherspoon may dominate the advertisements for The Good Lie, but she is not the star of the film (it’s Mamere). Her character does not appear until 30 minutes into the film, so audience members going for Witherspoon alone might be disappointed. Her character is assertive and intrepid, eerily similar to Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side, as many critics have eagerly pointed out. Both are more aggressive roles for these famously sweet actresses and both feature a white woman who inadvertently grows tremendously while taking a black male, or in Witherspoon’s case, four immigrants, under their wings. Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal; will Reese follow in her footsteps? Probably not.
There is far more buzz surrounding Witherspoon’s role in Wild. Witherspoon truly is the star of the film and her character allows her togoes through all of the Best Actress prerequisites, like shooting up heroin, looking a bit gritty, and having meaningless sex. Director Vallé is known to bring out the best of his actors; Dallas Buyers Club gave way to both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto winning Oscars, and the film won Best Motion Picture of the Year.Advantage: Wild