A Walk in the Woods – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

September 2, 2015 by Roz Tarszisz
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When a popular book is adapted for the big screen, screenwriters take artistic licence to keep the story flowing.

Based on the non-fiction book A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, a few liberties have been taken with the ages of its two protagonists as well as depictions of key incidents. Or at least that’s what a fan of the book assures me.

Two old geezers set off to trek the popular Appalachian Trail in the US. The Trail stretches out over 2000 miles, passes through 14 states from Georgia to Maine encompassing wilderness and rugged terrain.  It’s definitely not for sissies.

Bill Bryson (Robert Redford – must be gratifying to be played by him) decides on a whim to hike it. His wife Catherine (Emma Thompson) insists he take a buddy.  Unable to find anyone else mad enough to join him, reluctantly takes on his old mate, Stephen Katz.

He and Katz toured Europe together many years earlier – and loathed and despised each other by the end of it.  Katz has lived a ramshackle life and is so unfit it’s a wonder he makes it past the first day.

In spite of the huffing and puffing, I felt short-changed.  Where are the shots of blisters, bleeding feet, cooking mishaps or useless stuff jettisoned on the way?  These old fellas manage to hoick backpacks over their shoulders like they were nothing more than large man–bags.

What does come across is the camaraderie of the trail; although when our heroes meet the obnoxious solo walker, Mary Ellen (Kristen Schaal), ditch her as soon as they can. Mary Steenburgen brings her usual charm in a cameo as a motel owner.

Bryson is played as a bit of a curmudgeon while the lumbering Katz is full of regrets for a misspent life. Watch out for the scene where he explains exactly what drinking alcohol means to him. I hear you Katzy.

Breathtaking scenery and cinematography combine with a terrific soundtrack by Lord Huron. Faithful or not to the book, it was a pleasure to see two great actors working together.

3/5         Rated M  104 mins            Released  September 3

Starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Emma Thomson

Directed by Ken Kwapis

Screenplay Rick Kerb, Bill Holderman based on the book A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Music by Lord Huron

 

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