Walk In The Woods
Yes, the comparisons with “Wild” are inevitable: last year's
celebrated movie, starring Reese Witherspoon, about Cheryl Strayed's
trek through the Pacific Crest Trail.
But the woman who wrote that book was much younger, much edgier,
and saw the solitary wilderness journey as a way of finding herself, a
kind of soul-searching, introspective spiritual pilgrimage.
“A Walk In The Woods” is, as the name implies, much more
leisurely. Based on the book
by Bill Bryson, it's more about an older guy checking off something on
his bucket list. Robert
Redford plays the Iowa-born professor who spent years in England, as
something of an Anglophile, and winds up in New England, a retired
Chancellor, with a lovely English wife, Catherine (Emma Thompson), who
thinks he's taken leave of his senses, and insists he can go only if
someone else agrees to go with him (secretly hoping he couldn't find
anybody). Bill calls
practically every man he knows, and gets the predictable answers:
too much time, too many other commitments, not in shape, not
interested, too old, too lazy...but as a last resort, he calls an old
friend he hasn't even heard from in a long time, but as college buddies
they went to Europe together, so at least there's a history of
camaraderie. Stephen Katz
(Nick Nolte) is still the proud profligate that he was as a younger man.
He claims that he's spent half his life drinking and chasing
(women), and the other half he's wasted.
He looks the part, too: overweight,
red-faced, unkempt, short of breath, raspy voice, but---willing to go.
He informs Bill later that he was also running away from a couple
of outstanding arrest warrants. Bill
is somewhat taken aback by this revelation, but then, Bill realizes that
beggars can't be choosers. So,
off they go to Georgia, to begin the famed Appalachian Trail together.
Cheryl often sought other hikers for company; Bill and Stephen
try to avoid other hikers, because the only one who showed any interest
in walking with them was really annoying.
Cheryl lost toenails, and threw away her expensive hiking boots;
Bill and Stephen lose their dignity in a mudhole, and their food to
foraging bears. Reese
Witherspoon, nominated for an Oscar for her rendition of Cheryl, does a
sizzling nude scene as part of a casual sexual encounter.
Nick Nolte briefly flashes some butt cheek trying to crawl into
his pup tent, which is supposed to be more humorous than erotic.
Bill and Stephen don't mind getting off the trail to stay in a
communal lodge, or even a cheap motel, where once Stephen connects with
a rather large flirtatious lady at the local laundromat, also supposed
to be funny. Both men are
tempted to quit the Trail several times, especially after they fall off
the beaten path and spend the night on a narrow ledge.
Finally, they do quit, miles away from their goal, but then, it
really wasn't about doing the whole thing, anyway, it was about
re-connecting with nature, and with each other, which they did.
And then they simply return to their previous lives, whereas
Cheryl constructs a new life altogether, marrying and raising a family,
and only writing about her solitary experience much later.
Bill keeps claiming he wasn't trying to do this just to write a
book, but then, he does, anyway. It
was still the physical adventure of a lifetime, even if not all that
much happened. But it
suggests to fellow Baby Boomers another coveted item on the bucket list.
If you can find someone willing to go with you who's as much fun