Greetings, Green Warriors! Thistle and I recently went to see a movie this weekend, the film adaptation of A Walk in The Woods by Bill Bryson that had me ROLLING the entire time.
My perspective is from someone who has never the read the book. I knew of Bill Bryson’s travel writing, and I have seen his name while perusing through the nature or travel sections of many bookstores. From the trailers, this appeared to be an Odd Couple film that promised some of the same type of humor. Thistle and I both immediately wanted to see it when we saw the trailer.
The on-screen rapport between film legends Robert Redford (as Bryson) and Nick Nolte (as Stephen Katz) was comedic genius. The aloof and dry humor of Robert Redford and the blunt and often crude humor of Nick Nolte played off one another perfectly. The breathtaking panoramic views of the Appalachian Mountains were something that felt like it should be in a documentary.
In some places, Redford goes into his perfectly crafted documentary voice that educates the audience as well as his companion Katz. Redford has been a green warrior for decades longer than I’ve attempted to do this blog. His lends his voice and his name to many environmental causes, charities, and organizations that try to better this world. I only know Nick Noltes’ film credits, and I have been a fan of his since “48 Hours” in the 80s. Recently, Nolte played a wise mechanic Socrates in “Peaceful Warrior.”
A Walk in the Woods is funny in a way that tickles you to the soul. It has charm, wit, and a sense of adventure that inspires you to get outdoors. By today’s standard of film, this may not resonate with a younger crowd of moviegoers, although it does have as much humor as a Seth Rogan film.
Too me this film is about mortality and friendships. The connections we create in life not only to people but also to places come to define our way seeing the world. We are only here for a brief time to experience this wonder and make these connections, so we should to take advantage of what time we have. Together.
Book-Lover’s View of A Walk
Honestly, I’m always a little leery of book adaptations. I wasn’t thrilled with last December’s take on Wild, Cheryl Strayed’s biography of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Having read Bryson’s book earlier this year, I wondered how they would take a book that combined biography with sizable chunks of trail history, geology, and environmental topics into something people would actually sit and watch.
Before seeing the adaptation of the much-loved travel biography, I glimpsed snippets of a few reviews and noticed that many disliked the film, saying it drug along or lacked real humor. I was also concerned with the idea of taking a middle-age crisis story (Bryson was in his 40s when he tackled the Appalachian Trail) and handing it over to two 70-something actors.
Admittedly, I worked up concerns that weren’t needed. I think the problem many reviewers may have is:
- They are being entertained by two old men who look like old men in an era of age denial, and
- The movie never firmly settles in either the camp of comedy or drama but lies somewhere between.
I laughed and chuckled throughout the movie, as did those around me. Bryson’s writing has great touches of humor, and I remember laughing out loud when reading the book. This translated well on the big screen with two veteran actors who know how to act. But this isn’t a full-out comedy and there were times when things slowed a bit and we took in the view of the trail as they did: full of wonder and beauty. For me, these parts weren’t slow but motivating – it makes me even more inspired to go from day hiker to serious backpacker so I too may take in such stunning views and reconnect to nature.
Redford does well holding onto Bryson’s snark and feeling superior to his colleague. But it was Nicke Nolte, as his bumbling, gravel-voiced sidekick and reformed alcoholic, that really made the movie. He delivers us Stephen Katz completely and with all his flaws and humor but equally bringing to life Katz’ ability to be lovable – even philosophical in his own way.
Another word to the lovers of the book: This is not the book.
Some parts of the book were changed for dramatic effect. Most passages about the trail history, geology, and environment were removed, though they sneak in a few items in dialogue like the near decimation of the American Chestnut. Also, the end was tightened and trimmed considerably from the hopscotch ending of the book. Finally, Bryson was rewritten from being a 40-something dad with a midlife crisis to being a grandfather wanting one last adventure instead of waiting for the dismal end he was seeing for so many friends.
Though not 100 percent true to the book, if you love the center of the story – the relationship of these two very different old friends reconnecting and proving to themselves that they could do it – you’ll love the movie.
A Walk in the Woods is rated R and currently playing in theaters.