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‘A Walk In The Woods’ Review: Robert Redford Rules Scenic Biopic

Thu, September 3, 2015 4:14pm EDT by 4 Comments

‘A Walk in the Woods’ is the perfect movie to see during Labor Day weekend. Though the plot is nothing to rave about, it’s easygoing and funny — and the scenery is stunning. It’s exactly what you need between naps and trips to the beach!

Though Robert Redford is up against the majestic Appalachian mountains in A Walk in the Woods, he manages to command the screen. He is an acting legend, after all — and he’s supported by an equally talented cast including Nick Nolte and one of my favorite people on the planet, Emma Thompson. There are also delightful one-off scenes with Kristen Schaal and Nick Offerman. This film is more drama than comedy, but it’s light enough to keep the audience afloat.

 This adventure comedy is based on the 1998 memoir of the same name by Bill Bryson (portrayed by Redford in the movie). It’s sort of like Wild, but it stars men instead of Reese Witherspoon and they have more access to creature comforts. Hey, they’re in their late 60s, so it’s justified. Typically straitlaced and published author Bill decides to hike the Appalachian trail on a whim, and when his wife Catherine (Emma Thompson) tells him that there’s no way he’s going without a partner, he reaches out to everyone he knows. Alas, the only person brave (or dumb?) enough to be interested is Stephen Katz (Nolte), whom Bill has lost touch with.

The trip ultimately brings them together again despite their opposite personalities. Bill is introverted and studious; Katz is decidedly cringe-worthy (you’ll see what I mean when he buys Donettes from a vending machine) and a bit of a wreck. Their journey is physically and emotionally taxing, with plenty of temptations along the way that attempt to deter them from the trail. They bond, of course, thereby painting the movie as a sort of coming-of-age story. It’s a low-commitment film, with mild action and a few laugh-out-loud moments here and there, though nothing too revolutionary.

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Redford holds his own as a witty lead and oozes clever sarcasm, but Thompson’s scenes, which bookend the movie, are hands-down the funniest — especially when she voices over a montage of Redford reading print-outs of trail horror stories. Anyone who has seen her on screen for five minutes knows that a movie with her name on the poster is worth seeing. This is no different.

The unlikely duo of survives their months-long hike, thought they cheat constantly by staying at motels and ordering pie at restaurants. Then again, I’d feel the same way after a spat with a couple of bears and an unexpected snowstorm, as Bill and Katz encounter. They decide to return home after completing only a third of the trail, but they got what they came for: an undeniably human experience and inspiration for Bill’s next book, titled — what else? A Walk in the Woods.

Will you go see A Walk in the Woods, Hollywoodlifers? Let me know!

— Gabriella Ginsberg

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