A Walk in the Woods doesn’t much rile Redford

(From IMDb.com)

(From IMDb.com)

At the start of A Walk in the Woods, travel writer Bill Bryson is being interviewed on a Boston morning TV show. The host is a silly man, sure, over-the-top in his pomposity and self-importance, but he sure does drive home his point as he grills his guy living comfortably with his family in New Hampshire attempting to hawk a boxed set of collections of books he wrote while living in England two decades ago. What have you done for me lately, old man?

Another uncomfortable realization kicks in when he returns to face another funeral and again doesn’t come up with the right words out with friends.

Robert Redford and Emma Thompson dance well together as Bill and his taken-here-from-London wife Catherine. But still something in his soul needs stirring. So he hatches a plan to walk the Appalachian trail after seeing a sign in their backyard extolling its miles up and town. Protective she won’t let him go alone. The only taker is a cranky honk of a voice on the other end of the phone, a person so far from the past he wasn’t even on the list of invitees but heard about the trip second-hand. OK, Bryson lets go of his resolve. Katz it is. Stephen Katz, played by the expansive, wheezing, sloppy Nick Nolte, arrives by plane and stays one night at their house, shares a three-generation family meal at the table and tells stories. Catherine remembers how they did not end well those decades ago in Europe and is even more reluctant.

Redford is the man who wanted to make this movie for a long time, because he read the actual book of this journey written by the real Bill Bryson. Alas, when they set off to walk America’s storied trail, those two men were 44 years old. Redford is 79. Nolte is 74. So the film directed by Ken Kwapis from a screenplay written by Rick Kerb and Bill Holderman reflects this. Very much.

There’s comedy to be had in those two watching school kids zipping up the mountain past them, and fit and concerned twentysomethings offering help and they being too stubborn to accept.

Katz is way fat and way slow. Bryson is very slim and very determined.

They come upon a single woman hiking the trail, the shrill and oddball Mary Ellen, and she chirps her way out of their hearts in one great acting turn by Kristen Schaal. A kindly motel/restaurant owner played to the hilt by Mary Steenburgen and a randy clothes launderer portrayed with extra sauce by Susan McPhail show up to amuse them later.

Katz is dodging his past and living for the moment. Bryson loves what he’s accomplished and relishes charting what’s led up to the present state, his and the world’s.

But when two bears show up in camp one night and they join forces in fear and reaction, and Bryson stumbles and Katz tries to steady him only for both of them to end up in a worse pickle, their discussions result in two polars nudging closer to center. Nolte makes Katz seem like the fuller man. Redford never gets too excited about much.

The Trail is always beautiful.

The action moseys along.

A crowd that mostly filled the upper level in the stadium seating at the Regal Cinemas’ theater in Syracuse’s mega shopping, dining and entertainment complex Destiny USA for a Saturday late matinée yucked, and filed out appreciatively after the happy ending.

Lots of silver and hair-going in this year of Hollywood rediscovering the north-of-50 crowd, and they liked it the easy way.

What’s your favorite Robert Redford film, and why? What’s your favorite Nick Nolte film, and why? What’s your favorite buddy film, and why?


42 thoughts on “A Walk in the Woods doesn’t much rile Redford

  1. i love and have read, all of bill bryson’s books. after reading them, and seeing his pic, i thought redford was a curious choice, though i could see him embracing the story of this one. i’m looking forward to it. my fav redford film is, ‘the way we were.’ makes me weep every single time.


  2. I’m looking forward to this movie MBM, on your recommendation. And because I love the story and can relate to it. I’ve always liked RR. Don’t have a particular favorite movie. But I remember the first movie I saw as his, as a kid, when dad took us to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Probably my ‘favorite’ because I actually remember going to see it.


  3. I saw the coming attractions for this one and took a bit of time trying to explain to my kids who Robert Redford was only to be greeted by glazed over expressions. This one probably won’t end up in our queue but it seems like a fun one.


  4. It was a toss-up between that and Ricky & The Flash, proximity to showtime was the tie breaker, although the single scene trailer for Walk In The Woods did little to convince me it was going to be very good. Your review will get me tob it. The other, btw, was better than expected… M Streep in a band and, thanks to lessons from Neil Young, pretty decent on guitar. Rick Springfield way better on guitar than I woulda thought, and the right amounts of music and dialog as the story plays out between her, Springfield, her straight laced ex (Kevin Klein) and their in-crisis daughter.


  5. Nice post! I loved this movie. I think you’re looking at casting wrong. Redford will draw an audience and besides that, I’ve read here and there it may be true that he fought to have this project. If you have seen “A River Runs Through it” produced and narrated by Redford you get a full blast of his affinity for nature. To me the real question is: Was “A Walk in the Woods” the right movie for Redford to choose and I say, wholeheartedly yes!!! Millions will see it because he stamped his approval on it. I read the book a few years ago and it’s funny but this movie had my wife and I rolling in the aisles! Our sides hurt. I don’t mean any self promotion but if you’re interested check out my review over at Riley Central.


    • Your promotion here is fine, Damien. And we can have differing views. I’m glad Redford fought to have it made. I don’t think he was the right guy to play Bryson. I loved Nolte as Katz. There you go.


  6. Honestly my favorite Nick Nolte movie was “Down and Out in Beverly Hills”. For Robert Redford, it would have been “All the President’s Men”. My favorite movie buddies are my two sons, they love movies as much as I do, even foreign films with subtitles.


    • Good picks for the stars, SD. Especially Watergate for RR. Give me Hoffman and Redford breaking open the story, you betcha. Hey, having your sons as your movie buddies is pretty dang great. 🙂


  7. This is an easy survey. Redford in “The Way We Were”, Nolte in “Prince of Tides” (just realized they both featured Streisand), and the buddy movie for Redford that I loved was “The Sting”..a lot more humor than Butch and Sundance for me. Looking forward to seeing this one. ☺


  8. I think I prefer Redford in Out of Africa, but I also really like him as Gatsby. Nolte is excellent in Prince of Tides. Best buddy movie — Did you see The Grand Budapest Hotel? I love the buddy-buddy-ness of the concierge and the bellboy.


  9. Thanks for the review, Mark! I am reading the book…and hope to see the movie after that. 🙂
    I loved Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid…and that is one of my fav “buddy” films…The Great Gatsby, The Sting, etc. 🙂
    I like both him and Nolte…loved Nolte in Cape Fear, Three Fugitives and a lot more. 🙂
    As for buddy films…Shawshank Redemption, Lethal Weapon, etc. 🙂
    HUGS!!! 🙂


  10. Thanks for this review. I love everyone in it. I like every film I’ve seen with both Nolte and Redford. I love The Sting, but I have to mention The Natural as well. I’ve had a crush on Nick Nolte for about twenty-five years! I have always thought he was great in the Three Fugitives but my favourite? I have it at home. It’s called The Good Thief.


  11. I loved the Bryson book, but I’ve read bad reviews of the movie so am reluctant to see it (evidently loaded with silly sight gags, contrived scenes unrelated to the book,” sitcom-ish, etc. – “Rotten Tomatoes” has it at 43% or something). One reviewer remarked that the movie never effectively conveyed how distance hiking the AT can be transformative. I’ve hiked sections of the AT, and have seen a lot of movies in my time, so I need a bit more than a just another clichéd “buddy movie.” Still, great to see Redford back in action and looking good (per the photos and trailer). My favorite movie of his is “Jeremiah Johnson” because of the natural beauty, economic dialog, and realistic portrayal of Native Americans. My favorite buddy movie is “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” for 5 reasons: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, Ennio Morricone’s score, and Sergio Leone’s panoramic genius.


    • Great reminder of how stirring “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” was across the senses. Thanks, greenpete58, for dropping in and dropping your opinion on us all. Much appreciated, all of it. I hope you find your way here again.


  12. My favorite Robert Redford was “The Sting” and also, the Hustler film. I cru and do like The Way We Were, too. I watched his battle against the sea and really saw his age show up. I want to see this movie, soon! 🙂


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