Monday, August 24, 2015

A Walk in the Woods: Movie Review


A simple journey with light humour.
Bill Bryson's memoir and trek along the Appalachian Trail are recreated (and changed) in A Walk in the Woods. It's a very light film, filled with Bryson's famous wit, and simple comedy as two septuagenarians go on an adventure which even people half their age would have difficulty with. Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) is just ready to shake up his life rather than head into retirement and instead of hitting the trail alone, he's joined by his old friend Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte). 2015

Directed by: Ken Kwapis

Screenplay by: Rick Kerb, Bill Holderman
Based on the novel by Bill Bryson

Starring: Robert Redford and Nick Nolte

The two have grown very far apart who were the never the closest of friends to begin with. And thus the film also has its fair share of humour arising from difference of opinions and life styles. I loved the humour at the beginning. It opens with Bill Bryson in a very awkward interview and it's hard to believe the movie could get any funnier. In walks his wife (Emma Thompson) who presents him with gruesome details about deaths on the Appalachian trail, and then his son takes him to a camping supply store. Considering how ill-prepared he is for this shopping trip, you can guess how badly the hiking is going to go.
Nick Nolte and Robert Redford. Courtesy of eOne Films.
And then in walks Nick Nolte as Katz. He assured Bryson over the phone that he was in good shape, but who knows what he meant by that, because the possibilities of death just multiplied when he appeared on the scene.

One issue with the film is that it always remains light. Every time Bryson and Katz appear to get themselves into serious trouble, one joke and one quick edit always gets them back on the trail and in good health.

Redford as Bryson was great casting. He perfectly captures his wit and intelligence and despite the mis-matched characters, sympathy for Bryson is always present. It's the yin to Bryson's yang, that is more of an up-hill climb. Not only is it hard to picture Nolte attempting a 2,100 mile hike, but he's also more negative about it. He makes jokes about just staying in the hotel instead of hiking and doesn't treat the happily married Bryson with the type of respect the audience probably holds for him. The book was originally optioned by Redford years ago, while Paul Newman was still alive. That pairing would have provided another layer to these characters.

A Walk in the Woods is about the friendship between these two men and it is nice to see so many years and hostilities dissolve after a few miles. And it's also about the Appalachian Trail which is beautifully photographed. Like Wild which came out last year and portrayed the Pacific Coast Trail, the film definitely captures the beauty of a journey through nature. I prefer the eastern scenery, but Witherspoon's journey was more emotionally-involving. Redford's and Nolte's journey is just about the light humour.

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