Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Walk in the Woods [2015]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars)  RogerEbert.com (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (D)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review
RogerEbert.com (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (T. Robinson) review  

A Walk in the Woods [2015] (directed by Ken Kwapis , screenplay by Rick Kerb and Bill Holderman based on the book [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Bill Bryson [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is a quite fun film for us approaching "a certain age" that feels like a cross between the similarly themed comedy Last Vegas [2013] and Robert Redford's film of a few years back, All Is Lost [2013], which was certainly more direct and more somber in tone than the current film but had the same subtext in which a character, "no longer a spring chicken," had to face the realization that he was not going to be around for ever.

And so it is here, _previously_ successful travel writer author Bill Bryson [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] (played in the film by Robert Redford) finds himself realizing he's _becoming_ a living "has been" ;-).

In the first scene of the film, he's shown plugging "a box set" of his previously successful travel books on a local Boston area morning news/talk show, where the interviewer notes: "So you're here NOT plugging anything new..."  The 'interviewer from hell' continues by reminding Bill that in his entire career (in that boxed set) he's written about traveling in Europe, Asia, etc but NEVER about traveling in the U.S.  "So you're peddling a set of OLD books about TRAVEL to PLACES that most of your readers WILL NEVER SEE" ;-).  "Yes, thank you very much (Mr. Interviewer from Hell), I'm peddling old books that will be irrelevant to most of my prospective readers."  "Any new projects on the horizon?"  "No, I've been basically retired now for a fair number of years.  Spending time with my family has been my focus for some time now."  "Okay, then (why are you here?) thank you very much Bill Bryson do please (not) come back..." ;-) or :-/

So then, is Bill's future basically just ... waiting to die?  It turns out that passing behind Bill Bryson's nice New Hampshire home is the Appalachian Trail.  And after mulling over this interview in which he was treated like a living corpse, he decides, at 60 or even 70, to try to hike it.

His age appropriate English wife, Catherine (played by Emma Thompson), who Bill met and married during above-mentioned "European days" years long past, is aghast.  She quickly prints-out a whole series of news articles for him that she found on the internet about people dying, getting severely injured, frozen, murdered and even ATTACKED BY BEARS ... on the Appalachian Trail.  And so she begs him, "at least DON'T go alone."

Okay, but who to ask?  He picks up his Rolodex and calls every friend he has, and ... ALL SAY NO ;-).  But he does get a call from a very old acquaintance, former (Iowa) hometown high school buddy of his, Stephen Katz (played by Nick Nolte), who he's _long discounted_ (and removed from his above mentioned "Rolodex of friends") who ... tells him that he heard from another acquaintance that he's looking for someone who'd go with him on this trip and ... well, he'd be willing to go.  There was of course, "the matter of the $600" (!) that he still owed Bill, "from 20 years back" (! ;-).  But if he'd be willing to let "bygones be bygones" and besides he _still_ "intends to pay him," he'd be happy go ;-).

Bill, again, not wanting to just wait-out his days for Death to arrive, and not wanting his wife to simply go crazy with worry, decides to accept Stephen's offer.  And much, much ensues ... ;-)

I do love films like this, because even though Stephen's (character) is _exactly_ like one would imagine, HE IS _exactly_ like one would imagine him ;-).  Yes, he definitely "has issues" but he's ALSO MORE than JUST "his issues."  And ultimately both he and the previously far more successful Bill Bryson, are ... "walking the same path."

An awesome, fun and well spun tale ;-)

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