Monday, 5 February 2018

A Walk in the Woods (2015)


What an odd film. The standard trope of this kind of story is that our characters go on a dual journey; the journey they're actually making in the literal sense and the journey of self discovery and contentment they make in the figurative sense. Not so with A Walk in the Woods, a very loose adaptation of a Bill Bryson memoir. 


Right from the start, the movie version of Bryson (Robert Redford) is depicted as -  though frustratingly never called out for being - a privileged blowhard of a man who, not only feels it's an injustice that he has to go on talk shows and answer questions in his professional life, but feels a similar sense of injustice in his personal life, most notably at the prospect of having to socialise with a grieving widow and others at a friend's wake. 


Convincing himself that he must undertake one last adventure (perhaps to get away from the stiffs who have the misfortune to not be him) he decides on walking the Appalachian Mountain Trail with his decrepit old friend Katz (Nick Nolte), but he's clearly not given this much proper thought because that's a prospect which will naturally see him coming across various people along the way. Given this opportunity of interaction is on the cards, as an audience we expect his curmudgeonly demeanour to dissipate, but no - instead the film goes out of its way to depict everyone to be the kind of twatwaffle Bryson has long suspected other people to be, and all the journey does is strengthen his bond with the likeminded Katz. That these other 'Non Bryson, Not Katz' unfortunates are all considerably younger (well c'mon, they're hardly gonna meet anyone older than them are they? Not unless those fossils come to life!) and are also in the vast majority female, gives the film a worryingly misogynistic and bitter air that really doesn't cut it today.


Basically if I'd wanted to watch a couple of leather faced old baby boomers trying to prove they can still get it up as they sneer at the energy, optimism and enthusiasm of the youth of today, I'd have revisited those depressing TV debates between students in the Remain camp and elderly Brexit voters in the run up to the EU referendum.


That said, I watched it with my mum who chuckled quite a bit throughout it, and a couple of Redford and Nolte's Last of the Summer Wine style antics did occasionally raise a wan smile from me, but overall this is one trek I'd pass on.

A Walk in the Woods? More like A Wank in the Woods.

6 comments:

  1. Ended up watching this last week too with the other half. Having read the book a good few years ago I knew what was coming but why oh why did they have to get a guy who was 79 at the time and one who was 74 to play the lead roles. I just couldn't get past the fact that a) he was married to someone who could be his daughter and b) neither of them came from a sporty background where such an undertaking would have been remotely possible. A few mildly amusing moments as you say but on the whole they missed a trick with this one.

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    1. I believe the film has been in development for some time as Redford original intention was to make it with Paul Newman. Perhaps if it came out twenty years or so ago it would have worked. The attitudes it presents towards women and young people in general might have flown a bit more under the radar then too. And yes, Redford and Emma Thompson - no, no, no. A waste of her talents too

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  2. Just remembered as well that in 1992, Nolte was named the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine.

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    1. Not a man who has aged well. Lived well, yes. Aged well? No way

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  3. I haven't seen the film, though I'll keep my eyes open for it now. As I recall, many of the people Bryson and Katz encountered (book version), those "energetic, optimistic, enthusiastic youth of today" behaved like a bunch of rude and clueless airheads on the trail.

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    1. But energy, enthusiasm and optimism can coexist with rudeness and a lack of knowledge The two aren't mutually exclusive.

      The Kristen Schaal character is a case in point: she's a prime example of an 'all the gear no idea' type, and she's offensive yes but in a way that you know she isn't intentionally being. It's just how she communicates and it's done with optimism. Now compare that to Redford's Bryson who openly admits that he hates talking to people.

      The issue I have with this film is that the depictions of Bryson and Katz are just as rude and clueless, yet they act with a high handed superiority seemingly just because they're old, privileged and have some fame in Bryson's case. It also left a really bad taste in the mouth that almost all women were depicted as stupid, irritating or nympho

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