Old Friends Reconnect Through Adventure in Dramatic Comedy

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You don’t have to be a nature lover to appreciate the cinematic beauty of director Ken Kwapis’ “A Walk in the Woods.”

Despite its mild title, this film has something for everyone: adventure, comedy, drama and beautiful landscape shots.

The basic premise follows aging celebrated travel writer Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) as he hikes the Appalachian Trail with his college buddy, Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte), whose life had not followed such a primrose path.

In the following months, the two get to know each other again, for better or for worse.

They experience setbacks, annoyances and even some palpable dangers on the trail, but the two typically find humor, or at least irony, in their situations.

All in all, the film was satisfying. It made me laugh, it made me sad, it even made me scared for a few heart-thumping moments.

There is a real sense of natural awe in the film, as well.

From stunning landscape shots to heartfelt environmental commentary, I left with a sense of the sanctity of nature and the reminder that it is shrinking rapidly.

As far as actors go, cameos include Emma Thompson, Nick Offerman and Kristen Schaal, all bringing their own characteristic charm into their respective roles.

Bill seems somewhat stiff, although whether this is a product of the actor or the character I can’t say.

His counterpart on the trail, Stephen, is often difficult to understand because he is either muttering or slurring.

I imagine this is a device of the character, but it made some portions of the movie uncomfortable, if only because you aren’t sure whether to feel sorry for him.

On the other hand, his somewhat crude sense of humor almost gives him some charm, but not much. Mostly, he seems alternately sad and grumpy, while Bill usually seems happily optimistic. The sharp contrast between the two works well for the movie, but doesn’t seem entirely natural.

The overall cinematography was impeccable, but it will be most impressive if seen in theaters.

The Appalachian Trail’s landscape spreads vast and beautiful before you, and it truly is awe-inspiring. There are at least three fantastic landscape shots along the trail, and the picture is amazingly clear. The film’s music is fitting to the landscape, mostly indie-folk.

The whole package made me want to hike the Appalachian Trail.

There are a few disappointments, of course. There are scenes that feel like they will never end, others that go too fast and others with a lot of time waiting for things to happen. These times aren’t empty, but they feel lacking.

Several storylines also seem to start, but end abruptly or are seemingly forgotten.

This could the attributed to the characters’ personalities, but nonetheless left me wondering when certain characters were going to show up again.

The movie was also extremely long, but ended rather abruptly, with no warning whatsoever; I didn’t feel ready.

I would certainly recommend seeing this film.

With all of its flaws, the message is one of hope and youthfulness, something which speaks to everyone.

It is also a genuinely fun film; I found myself relating to two 70-year-old men, which is a new experience, if nothing else.

“A Walk in the Woods” is rated R for sexual references and language and is playing at Conway’s Cinemark Theater.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 9, 2015 print edition of The Echo.

image via theorion.com

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I was born and raised in Arkansas, and most recently lived in Jacksonville. I live with my boyfriend and cat, and in my down time I like to knit, paint, and go camping. I would probably camp every weekend if I could. I'm a journalism major.

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