In August and September, it’s often difficult to drag myself to screenings because, traditionally, the movies during this time of year are not the greatest. We often find ourselves counting down the days till October when Awards season ramps up, but sometimes you get surprised when you least expect it. This was the case when I went and saw Robert Redford and Nick Nolte in A Walk In The Woods. I went in expecting a movie akin to Grumpy Old Men on the Appalachian Trail and what I got was a surprisingly satisfying comedy.
A Walk in the Woods centers on Redford’s character, Bill Bryson, a travel writer who after attending the funeral of a family friend, decides that he’s going to attempt something unorthodox and hike the Appalachian Trail. In a frantic search for a friend to hike with, Bryson gets a phone call from an old buddy, Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte), who agrees to accompany him on his journey. Katz is a recovering alcoholic who likes to live life on the edge and Bryson is a very conservative person, so what we have here is the embodiment of the “Odd Couple.” The chemistry that Nolte and Redford have on screen is unquestioned and it’s that chemistry that is the strength of this film. Their contrasts can appear like stereotypical archetypes, but their acting ability and charm bind this film together.
However, acting can only take you so far. A Walk in the Woods was lucky to have Bill Holderman on board to adapt the original book for the screen. Holderman understood that the essential element of success in Bill Bryson’s book was his hilarious anecdotes from the trail and this picture is full of them. It’s the chemistry plus the excellent adaptation by Holderman that produce what’s an enjoyable trip down the trail with these two old friends.
The Cinematography was a key element to this film’s success. From one scene to another, you get that small taste of Americana as Katz and Bryson plod down that Appalachian Trail. This whole trip down the trail is about experiencing the beauty around us and anything short of capturing that beauty would have been a major flaw on the Director Ken Kwapis’s part. If they had tried to produce these shots from locations other than from the Appalachian Trail, it would have deterred mightily from the film. The music was on point. It was the perfect accompaniment to fantastic cinematography, creating such a pleasant watching experience.
Ken Kwapis was a sensible choice for A Walk In The Woods. Kwapis employed his typical 2 shot technique allowing for movie to flow appropriately. Kwapis simplistic approach in the way he shot the picture allowed the two actors to be the focus of the film, and that’s the way it should have been.
What we have here is nothing short of a pleasant surprise to this critic. I’m not going to tell you that it’s the greatest movie that I’ve seen in 2015, but not all movies have to be great. Not all movies aspire to be as such. Sometimes, knowing that you will leave satisfied after paying to see a movie is more than enough reason to go