A Walk in the Woods (2015)

walkinthewoods_2015_poster
A Walk in the Woods (2015)
  • Time: 98 min
  • Genre: Adventure | Comedy | Drama
  • Director: Ken Kwapis
  • Cast: Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Emma Thompson

Storyline:

In this new comedy adventure, celebrated travel writer, Bill Bryson, instead of retiring to enjoy his loving and beautiful wife, and large and happy family, challenges himself to hike the Appalachian Trail – 2,200 miles of America’s most unspoiled, spectacular and rugged countryside from Georgia to Maine. The peace and tranquility he hopes to find, though, is anything but, once he agrees to being accompanied by the only person he can find willing to join him on the trek – his long lost and former friend Katz, a down-on-his-luck serial philanderer who, after a lifetime of relying on his charm and wits to keep one step ahead of the law – sees the trip as a way to sneak out of paying some debts and sneak into one last adventure before its too late. The trouble is, the two have a completely different definition of the word, “adventure”. Now they’re about to find out that when you push yourself to the edge, the real fun begins.

4 reviews

  • A Walk In The Woods owes a great deal to everyone connected with the movie. Bill Bryson wrote an excellent book even if it wasn’t represented completely in the movie. Director Ken Kwapis and cinematographer John Bailey had some wonderful shots and didn’t lean too heavily on the opportunity to fill the screen from beginning to end with spectacular vistas. Kwapis shows himself to be an actor’s director and screenwriters Rick Kerb and Bill Holderman produced a script that gives us everything we expect without dwelling on any of it. In fact, the script is the weakest element of the movie but that just isn’t that big a deal. The best gags were all in the previews but they still earned laughs as they went by in the movie.
    The really wonderful part of this movie are the performances. They are what makes this movie worth seeing. Five performers, with supporting roles, are standouts. Emma Thompson, as Catherine Bryson, is the wife who loves her husband and is a bit afraid for him but knows better than to try to stop him. She bookends the story and makes the character of her husband more real for it. Nick Offerman plays Dave, a salesman at a camping store who doesn’t believe what he’s seeing but is going to sell this man anything that can be sold. Kristen Schall’s Mary Ellen is perfect know-it-all who knows less than she’ll ever admit and won’t shut up either. Mary Steenburgen is Jeannie who sees something that might happen but doesn’t push too hard.
    And, finally, there’s Susan McPhail’s Beulah who sees something and doesn’t care what might happen. These five give succinct and complete performance of fully rounded three-dimensional characters who are supporting characters to the story and, at best, present in only a few scenes. Performances like these might over-shadow the main performances but in this movie they all blend beautifully.
    It’s a tough act to blend with but they all hold their own against Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. Redford plays Bill Bryson with the perfect mix of uncertainty and conviction that motivates the character to do what he does. All the different emotions the character feels travel across Redford’s face with a naturalness that makes it look easy. Nolte’s Stephen Katz is loud and brash but under it all you can see the person and he is very likable. These two performances make this movie. The predictability of the situations might be from me having read the book years ago but these two characters make the most predictable event seem fresh and funny.
    I give this movie 3 ½ three season tents out of 4. As I said, it is predictable but it is also well worth watching.

  • Here are three things I picked up on while viewing 2015’s A Walk in the Woods (my latest review): 1. hikers like the ones portrayed in the film, are really annoying people. You literally want to shake them and say, “what’s your glitch man”. 2. “Woods” is a lot more vulgar than I thought. You have Robert Redford’s character playing straight man to Nick Nolte’s perverted old geezer. 3. this thing is based on a book by Bill Bryson. It is constructed on actual memoirs of him and his buddy attempting to stroll the infamous Appalachian Trail. He was in his forties when it all went down. Redford and Nolte are ages 79 and 74 respectively. I guess non-fiction goes straight out the window doesn’t it? 4. A Walk in the Woods reminded me of Reese Witherspoon’s Wild which came out a year ago. Both flicks deal with traveling thousands of miles by foot. The difference with Wild, is that it’s a little more symbolic, much more depressing, and not jokey. Either way, you still gotta bring the big backpack, plenty of protein, and a shovel (for the smelly excrement of course).

    With sumptuous scenery and a folklore soundtrack, “Woods” chronicles successful writer, Bill Bryson (Redford). He’s got it all, a warm family and lots of best-selling books to his name. The problem is that he’s bored and for certain reasons unknown, wants to hike from Georgia to Maine. His loving wife (Catherine Bryson played by Emma Thompson) is against his plight. She eventually caves in and only lets him go if he agrees to have one of his friends accompany him. Bill calls a bunch of peers with all of them saying, “uh, no thanks”. The one galoot that jumps at the chance, is Bryson’s past acquaintance in Stephen Katz (Nolte). Katz is unmarried, wanted by the law, and loves hardcore junk food. Together they go on a journey, walking many miles and stopping at many rundown hotels. Chaos ensues in the form of a jealous boyfriend, two drunk drivers, some vicious grizzly bears, and a slippery cliff. In your mind, you’re just gonna have to revert back to 2013’s Last Vegas. It’s the concept involving a band of old timers getting thrusted into a world of cocky twenty year-olds deemed more astute and definitely more agile.

    In terms of casting, the original plan was to have Redford use his buddy (the late Paul Newman) as his unequivocal comic foil. The two of them could have their Sundance moment and we’d get the full-on, Newman-Redford trilogy (you can’t leave out The Sting you know). Oh well, I’ve always worshiped old Hud Bannon and may he rest in peace. But Nolte with his ragged, teddy bear looks, probably would still be a more humorous option anyway (since “Woods” is advertised as a comedy). As for Redford bringing the funny, well I’ve never seen him in that capacity. Alas, he channels the dry here and becomes the effortless yin to Nolte’s yang.

    All in all, this is quietly, a nanoscale film. It’s also harmless and relatively wholesome. And despite A Walk in the Woods being utilized with forced, slapstick antics and references to fellatio (add various jokes about fellatio and an actual, masked act of fellatio to that list), the actors pull you through with a couple of poignant moments towards the end. Redford and Nolte have pretty good chemistry here and I didn’t think that was possible (I’m glad I was wrong). They fit into their roles like comfortable old shoes that have been worn for months. Bob’s Bill is closed off, conservative, uptight, and preset. Nick’s Stephen is fancy-free, inflamed, and a dodging man child. Together they are polar opposites but likable enough, a sort of Harold & Kumar for the AARP generation.

    Now do they make it across the rugged trail in one piece? You’ll have to see the movie to find out. Does it really matter though? Not entirely. After viewing “Woods”, I realized that this so-called walk is instead, more of a hidden metaphor than anything else. It’s ultimately about long lost friendship, having the courage to stay sober for many a year, missing your loved ones, and finding out who you truly are. Bottom line: A simple premise, two legendary actors, and nature equals a pretty decent afternoon at the multiplex. And when Redford flashes that golden boy smile (his monumental trademark) via the last five minutes of the proceedings, you’ll know that it’s all good in these “woods”. My rating: 3 stars.

    Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

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  • Nolte and Redford. It doesn’t have quite the same kick as Newman and Redford, does it? A Walk in the Woods, an adaptation of Bill Bryson’s travel memoir, was originally conceived by Redford as a project for himself and his Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid co-star and longtime buddy, and Paul Newman’s ghost certainly haunts the film. It is regrettable that the two never had an opportunity for a third pairing, but Newman’s absence and the thought of what might have been adds a layer of poignancy to this tale of growing old, reconnection, and the lure of one last adventure.

    The opening moments find Redford as Bryson trapped in a gloriously awkward interview on a morning chat show. Later, Bryson and his wife Catherine (Emma Thompson) attend a friend’s funeral and the famed writer once again clumsily paints himself into a corner. Still, the funeral does set off an impulsive desire to hike the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. Everyone views this as a bad idea, especially his wife who fears for his health and safety. He hasn’t hiked for 30 years, Catherine points out, people far younger than him have been injured or died attempting that hike, there are bears and other dangerous animals out there! Yet she knows that he won’t relent and so she insists he at least not go at it alone.

    Enter Stephen Katz (Nolte), who calls from out of the blue and invites himself along. Catherine is skeptical – wasn’t Katz the irresponsible alcoholic friend who was with him on a European trip all those years ago? And didn’t they get on each other’s nerves? “We started out on each other’s nerves,” Bryson clarifies. “We ended up despising each other.” For a time, it seems that history may be repeating itself. To say Katz is not in the best condition is an understatement. He can barely get off the plane much less make it through the first quarter mile of the trail. His interest and temperament hardly match Bryson’s – Katz would rather chase ladies of a certain weight than hike or dawdle in the details of rock and formation types.

    And so the men make their way along the trail reminiscing, passive-aggressively criticising one another, encountering a variety of characters (including Kristin Schaal as an obnoxious backpacker and Mary Steenburgen as a local innkeeper with whom Bryson shares a mild flirtation), and involving themselves in escapades both major and minor. There is not much more to A Walk in the Woods than that. It is a threadbare reverie that relies on the personas of its stars and some beautiful vistas to power it along.

    Nolte shambles along, his voice a phlegmy rasp, his beard scruffy, his hair beyond unkempt; this big, wheezing bear of a man still entertains and wrings many laughs from Katz’s naughty nature. There are chuckles to be had as Katz and Bryson mourn their younger years when they had the energy to engage in spontaneous acts of daring. Looking on from the back seat as a young woman goes down on her boyfriend as he’s driving, Katz remarks, “I wish I was still 20.” Bryson counters, “I wish I was still 50.”

    It seems odd to note that Redford surprises, considering the longevity of his career, but surprise the Sundance Kid does. The actor hasn’t allowed himself to be so lighthearted, at ease and sardonic in quite a long time. Much of the delight during the film’s first half hour derives from his flashes of humour and amused expressions. His golden visage may be more engraved with time, but the boyish charm, sharp wit, and native intelligence are still very much intact.

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  • “No, writers don’t retire.
    We either drink ourselves to death or blow our brains out.
    And which will it be for you?
    After this interview, maybe both.”

    A road movie, but then on foot. With two old-timers puffing like a steam locomotive while walking the Appalachian trail. A trip of approximately 3500 km in the USA. A trip even young people fail to finish. But these two stubborn 70-year-olds won’t give in easily and are motivated to reach the finish. And for what reason? On the one hand, there’s Bill Bryson (Robert Redford), a writer who mostly writes about traveling. Is this some sort of item of his bucket list? Or is it because a moderator of a television show came with the fact that he never wrote a book about traveling in the US? Or is this his last chance? And then there’s Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte), a grumpy old friend with an artificial knee, an ex-alcoholic and someone who needs to eat every hour so he won’t get a sudden seizure. All in all, this seems like an almost impossible task. But despite protests by Bill’s wife Catherine (Emma Thompson), both seniors embark on this venture.

    Films about people hiking through rugged landscapes to experience meditation moments, are quite popular nowadays. Reese Witherspoon demonstrated this already in “Wild”. And Robert Redford already tried something similar as a solo sailor in “All is lost”. Only there was no dialogue at all in this last film. And its largely present in “A walk in the woods”. And to be honest, these dialogs were highly entertaining and at times quite humorous. The whole didn’t feel as forced humor and they succeeded (to one point) in not letting it evolve into a sort of slapstick.Two old men, full of life experiences and wisdom, which are trying to push their own limits. Perhaps the obvious lessons of life were a bit cheesy. But this was amply compensated by the witty, amusing conversations and the delightful, ravishing landscapes they walked through.

    Perhaps some situations were a little predictable. Like the encounter with local wildlife and the incident with the panties in the laundry with an angry husband as a result. But there were also spontaneously hilarious moments like their meeting with the headstrong Mary Ellen (Kristen Schaal) they would rather not have in their company. Maybe I’m getting old but these two elderly made me laugh more than most recent comedies. Until towards the end the two of them got themselves into an uncomfortable situation. Then it felt a bit tragicomic. A kind of philosophical moment. Luckily I could forgive the makers this misstep because of all the foregoing, comic one-liners and dialogs.

    Whether they succeed in finishing the route or not, is actually irrelevant. Redford and Nolte are a perfect duo. You could compare them with Lemmon and Matthau with hiking boots. They look both very old, but mentally they still seem brisk enough. Would those two call me and ask me to accompany them on an inhuman trek, I would take the bait immediately. A fantastic movie.

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