Femme-Focused ‘Wild’ Is Macho Enough for Men Too

Is it sexist to call “Wild” a macho film?

The Fox Searchlight movie, which opens in Los Angeles and New York on Dec. 3, has made some men understandably wary. The protagonist is a woman, her key relationship is with her mother, and the nonfiction source material was in Oprah’s Book Club. So under the three-strikes law, this would seem like a chick pic.

That’s short-sighted: Audiences and awards voters of both sexes should find “Wild” both entertaining and emotional. In her autobiographical book, Cheryl Strayed is down-to-earth and gritty, and the film maintains that tone.

The film, like Strayed’s work, may be about a pretty woman hiking through pretty scenery, but her life is messy, the trail is tough and, as we are told, she often smells bad. The movie is sometimes exhilarating, sometimes painful, and emotionally touching.

The animation world has long been aware that girls would embrace a movie with a male protagonist (from “Pinocchio” to “Kung Fu Panda”), but that little boys resist films about females. Disney and Pixar’s success with “Tangled,” “Brave” and “Frozen” indicate that kids may have outgrown this old attitude. However, many adult males are apparently still suspicious of flesh-and-blood heroines, and, according to tracking for “Wild,” have yet to reach the heightened level of consciousness of their children.

“Wild” is not about a woman; it’s about a human being — who is trying to become the hero of her own life.

The film was shut out of the Indie Spirit noms, though the performances of Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, and the work of director Jean-Marc Vallee and d.p. Yves Belanger would seem a good fit.

But the Spirits don’t augur Oscar. Audiences have been enthused at industry screenings. So the picture will find its audience. The grown-up boys who resist it will be the losers.

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