Into the Wild ***
Directed by Sean Penn
Written by Sean Penn, based on the book by Jon Krakauer
Emile Hirsch as Christopher McCandless
Marcia Gay Harden as Billie McCandless
William Hurt as Walt McCandless
Jena Malone as Carine McCandless
Vince Vaughn as Wayne Westerberg
Kristen Stewart as Tracy
Catherine Keener as Jan Burres
Hal Holbrook as Ron Franz
140 Minutes(Rated R for language and some nudity. )
As anybody who reads this website would know, I just recently got back from Toronto, where I spent thirteen days by my lonesome making friends and seeing films at the Toronto Film Festival. This was my first trip away from the home alone, and on the train ride there I read the Jack Kerouac novel "On the Road." While Kerouac's novel about a narrator going on various car ride trips with his friends and getting wasted and hanging out with odd types did not inspire me to want to do the same, certain scenes in "Into the Wild" actually did make me want to journey out into the wilderness and experience life like that.
Emile Hirsch, who has been wasting his times in horrible movies like 'The Girl Next Door" and "Lords of Dogtown", stars as Christopher McCandless, who has recently graduated from college. His parents, who have been fighting for years, want to give him a new car to prepare him for Harvard, and Chris would rather not have any material possessions. And he leaves everything behind-even his sister who does love him-and goes missing from his family to go out into the wild. From this point on we get to see Chris, who changes his name to Alex on the road, and his journey. He meets a guy named Wayne, played by Vince Vaughn, and gets a wheat plowing job with him. He goes onto the river, buys a kayak, and does illegal rapid rafting. He burns all of his money and gets rid of his identification, and lives on berries and wild animals, while his parents are back at home trying to find any clues about where he might be.
Now Sean Penn directed and wrote the film, based off a book by Jon Krakauer, which was actually based on a real life person. I think in the end Penn, even though he never appears on the screen, was responsible for all the flaws the film had. His script at times makes this character of Chris to appear to be more godly than he really is. No matter where he goes he has people that love him, hardly any conflict except for an incident on a train, and with the voice over narration by his sister Clare, played by Jena Malone, she acts as if he is the glue that holds the family together, and his whole life is more meaningful than anybody else going through the same stuff. The voice over narration is sometimes far too overly poetic for its own good, and the hero worshipping angle that the script does give Chris was sometimes a bit eye rolling, and strongly unrealistic. Penn's directing gets a bit showy at times, and sometimes he over stylizes some scenes, or tries to make drama than there really is.
Aside from that, the performances are all quite good, especially Hirsch who probably has the toughest job at all. In addition to all these boating adventures, hiking adventures, and other excursions in the wild, he is forced to make the viewer like him. After all, we need someone likable to follow if the movie spans a hundred and fifty minutes. And he does that very well, and it seems like it was quite a good time filming this. Supporting work by Catherine Keener, Kristen Stewart, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, and especially Hal Halbrook are all appreciated as well. And this is another rather haunting tale of nature, oddly enough in the same vein as the masterpiece documentary "Grizzly Man," which tells about how nature can overpower man-can drive you nuts and can even take your soul away from you-turn you into a different person. Honestly the ending of this movie will stay with you long after its done. "Into the Wild" is a very good adventure tale-simple in its story, and epic in its execution.