Another in a random series.
A Walk in the Woods, a film based on Bill Bryson’s travel book about hiking the Appalachian Trail, seems to be a small-scale hit. At the showing we went to, the median age was about 70, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. The reviews have not been kind, though, and the reviews are correct. The scenery is great, but the movie tries too hard to be zany and wacky and crazy, and the result is disjointed and just not very funny. Also, what’s up with casting Emma Thompson as the wife of a guy in his seventies?
The main character, of course, is a writer. In real life, Bryson was a middle-aged guy who took on the Appalachian Trail mainly because he had a book contract. That’s motivation enough! In the movie, he’s an old man who is taking on this challenge because he’s facing the reality of sickness and death. And the movie actually has a motif of Nick Nolte saying something like “Don’t put that in your book!” whenever something embarrassing happens, and Redford responding “I’m not writing a book!” He has a notebook, but the only thing we seem hi put into it is a note to his wife when they’re in a bit of trouble. Only at the very end, when Nolte seems to tacitly give him permission to write about their adventures, do we see Redford start the book.
In other words, because this is mild middle-of-the-road entertainment (and it stars Robert Redford!), they chose to downplay the fact that the main character is supposed to be a working professional writer, in favor of a vague Everyman schtick. The result is amiable but empty. And Emma Thompson needs better roles!