Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Into the Wild, In Brief

I got to see the movie "Into the Wild" last night (see my PREview post, September 21, below).

Here's a brief REview:

As Chris McCandless (or the Chris McCandless character as portrayed in the film) does echo some of myself in my early 20s and even now, I am of course really glad I saw the film.

This is a case where, even with spectacular scenery and some poignant moments of fine acting (especially by Hal Holbrook and my new love, Catherine Keener), I must use the cliche: I liked the book better.

Of course I read the original story and the book (in Alaska, in 1997) when the story was still fresh and when I was myself just miles from that bus, still more haunted by my own youth than I am now. Being haunted by your youth and your "what-might-have-beens" matters to this movie because it is not, in and of itself, a compelling masterwork. It really does depend on what you bring to it, and perhaps that was Sean Penn's problem. He saw a strain of himself (as did I) in Chris McCandless, and he let him think he was creating a towering achievement.

The book was great. The movie was good, even with the advantage of the visuals, episodic action and that scenery. I knew Don Quixote. Don Quixote was a friend of mine. And Chris McCandless was no Don Quixote. He was much less wistful, much less attractive. McCandless was a ghost of sorts long before he truly became one.

And it is with ghost-like vacancy that Emile Hirsch portrays Chris, true to life, perhaps, but not the character on which the greatest heroic quests are based.

The lurching, fumbling chronology, the quirky (and inconsistent) chapter titles/interludes, and especially the split screen devices seemed, sorry to say, sophomoric to me. I found myself distracted from the story to wonder while watching the film about a good many of the camera and editing choices.

Still, a child of nature's escape from his family and a black sheep's plaintive and painful wandering resonate with me.

It was good to see even a failed attempt at the hero's quest, and I can recommend delving into that quest, with qualifiers. Perhaps see the movie. Then read the book.


At 10/18/2007 8:48 AM, Anonymous Judith said...

I'd like to see a blog comparing your bike trip across America to Into the Wild. I remember you describing your Dad's reaction when you arrived home. You could have turned around and left right then, and you would have been another Chris McCandless. Jon Krakauer was driven to write the book because of the similarities to feelings he had as a young man. What do you think about writing about it?

Just a thought. LOVE, JUDITH

At 10/19/2007 10:50 PM, Blogger Lawrence said...

Thanks for asking, Judith, and I will indeed write up a bit about that connection, which now that you mention it, I do see. Indeed, I still sometimes think, like Huck Finn, that I might just light out for the West!

Cheers, Mr. A Better Nation


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