Wild, Jean-Marc Vallée's new movie about a young woman who hiked more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail alone, will win Reese Witherspoon her latest Oscar nomination. The American actress plays Cheryl Strayed, who loses hope after the dissolution of her marriage and death of her mother.

Reese WitherspoonReese Witherspoon turns in a career best performance in Wild

Much like James Franco in 127 Hours, Witherspoon navigates the largely solo movie with aplomb and here, in Wild, she may well be the height of her powers.

"For the time being, Witherspoon - sometimes a wonderful actress and sometimes a maddening one - has found herself," said Stephanie Zacharek of Village Voice.

"What makes its heroine worth caring about - what makes her a rare and exciting presence in present-day American film - is not that she's tidy or sensible or even especially nice. It's that she's free," said A.O Scott of the New York Times.

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"Reese Witherspoon pulls on a pair of ill-fitting hiking boots and stomps straight into the Oscar race with a raw, wrenching performance as the writer Cheryl Strayed in this journey back from the brink," said Wendy Ide of The Times.

"In less sensitive hands, Wild could have easily wound up being an Oprah's Book Club episode writ large, but Hornby, Vallée, Witherspoon and Dern lead the charge in taking the material to a higher elevation," said Alonso Duralde of The Wrap.

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"Wild doesn't trek over new ground, but its stream-of-consciousness narrative style and an Oscar-worthy turn from Reese Witherspoon make it worth a look," wrote Bill Clark of FromTheBalcony.

The bookmakers still regard Julianne Moore as the favourite to win Best Actress at the Oscars, for Still Alice, though Witherspoon has history with the Academy and at 3/1, she represents perhaps the best bet of this year's awards season.

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