A WALK IN THE WOODS
Directed by Ken Kwapis.
Starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Kristen Schaal, Emma Thompson.
A pleasant, inoffensive diversion.
Based on Bill Bryson’s memoir of his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail, Robert Redford plays the curmudgeonly travel writer at a stage when life has stopped giving and started taking away. A combination of a lack of inspiration and a creeping realisation of his own mortality compels the author to embark on the 2000-plus mile trek from Georgia to Maine. His wife, Catherine (Emma Thompson), is understandably concerned (“Can’t you just do this in the Volvo?”) and insists that he brings some company on his quixotic quest. The only candidate stupid enough to sign up is recovering alcoholic Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte). This wheezing, overweight force of nature approaches doors, chairs and other sophisticated trappings of civilisation with a clumsy confusion, but Katz proves to be no more at home in the great outdoors. Hopelessly unprepared, the pair set off on their ill-fated adventure.
A Walk in the Woods is too whimsical and slight to provoke any extreme reactions, but it is impossible to dislike. Redford has nothing to prove and delivers a subtle, understated performance. Nolte barrels through the movie looking like a man capable of breaking nature itself. We can never be quite sure how much of his crazy grizzly bear schtick is an act. The gentle comedy (mostly at the expense of self-righteous hiking types) never tries too hard. Bryson and Katz’s burgeoning friendship and begrudging camaraderie develops in a manner refreshingly free from sentiment. A Walk in the Woods is a pleasant, inoffensive diversion.