A Walk In The Woods

If you’ve seen any publicity for the movie A Walk in the Woods, you might be thinking it’s a Wild for the older gentleman, and the East coast. And you couldn’t be faulted for thinking that, but there’s a little more (or, a little less) to it than that.

Bill Bryson is a writer I admire and have read widely. This is the story of how he decided to walk the 2000-plus miles of the Appalachian trail  and how his wife nearly derailed that trip by walk-in-the-woods-trailer-700x291demanding that he not get murdered while on it. What a bitch. So Bill Bryson empties out his little black book calling everyone in his Rolodex and then a few more, plus their grandmothers and pool boys, but none of them are as fond of bleeding feet, tin can dinners, and getting eaten by bears as he is, and so he scrapes the bottomest bottom of the barrel by accepting the company of a man he hasn’t been in touch with for decades (and for good reason).

These two men are played by Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.

Robert Redford has been trying to get this movie made for 15 years, and originally imagined it as a vehicle for himself and buddy Paul Newman. Unfortunately that pairing didn’t work out (Newman passed away in 2008) but it’s hard to see him in the role looking half as grizzled and damaged as Nolte does. He’s exceedingly convincing as someone on the constant verge of cardiac arrest.

This movie doesn’t pack the emotional punch that Wild does, nor does it mean to. It’s an odd-

couple buddy movie, just two old guys cracking wise and getting into elderly shenanigans along the way. And it’s fun. Bryson is a witty guy, and script writers Rick Kerb and Bill Holderman keep the one-liners coming. They’re getting quippy with it.

Emma Thompson as Bryson’s wife, and Nick Offerman as a knowledgeable salesman, are grossly underused. Even more criminally neglected: the scenery, which we know is there, and is beautiful, but the camera forgets to dwell on it. Wild’s cinematography capitalized on the wide open spaces but A Walk in the Woods plays it a little too cool.

I was wary when I heard about this movie. Redford struck me as way too old to play the part (I remembered Bryson as being maybe 40ish in the book) and he is, but the story’s tweaked enough that it becomes a gentle treatise on aging and living a meaningful life and the value old friends. But substantial? Not so much. It’s pretty much exactly what it says it is: a nice little stroll through the woods.

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14 thoughts on “A Walk In The Woods

  1. Paul S

    I love the early Bryson books, especially A Walk in the Woods and The Lost Continent. I am wary of this adaptation, but I can’t think of anyone better than Nolte and Redford to bring Bill’s writing to life.

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  2. Sean

    I liked this movie a lot more than I thought I would. It was easy to dismiss it as a me-too answer to Wild but it’s a totally different movie.

    Jay, you’re exactly right to call this a buddy movie, and Robert Redford and Nick Nolte are up to the task. They’re really good together. Especially Nick Nolte, who really does look like he’s been through 60 years of hell. But even that’s a funny thing here. The movie doesn’t dwell on anything bad, and so we just get to laugh along!

    None of this is substantial, but I think we both enjoyed it and it’s worth watching.

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  3. kmSalvatore

    Omg Matt , I can’t wait to see this movie, my husband loves the way Bill Bryson writes, has all of his paperbacks, I actually read this one ;)! I’m not a reader!
    I won’t be needing any popcorn .. I’ll be laughing to much ;))))

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  4. Sarah Ferguson

    I love Bill Bryson, and this is by far my favorite book of his. I think we’re going to try and see it soon – so good to hear it’s not horrible (and sounds exactly like the kind of movie I like).

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  5. reocochran

    I really like Robert Redford in the man against the sea movie. It was realistic and yet, depended on your watching and being calm, learning and understanding. I loved “Wild,” have seen it 3 times, once alone and with each my daughters.
    I was hoping this movie would be more serious and I love Emma T. and Nick O. Too bad the director did not take advantage of their fun and fine qualities!!

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  6. Murray

    I think Redford is too old for the part. None the less, I love Bryson’s writing, so I plan to see the movie at the discount theatre .

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