Thursday, April 16, 2009
Into the Wild. B
'Into the Wild' is congested with problems, the majority of which seem to be a result of unnecessary creativity, which seems to be very prevalent with modern artistic films. Yes, it's troubled by a great many things, most of which writer-director Sean Penn was well aware of. He stood by his methods though, and unfortunately, the film would have been a nagging disappointment if it weren't for its intriguing protagonist. This is the true story of Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsch), a young man who rebels against his family and the rest of civil society by going on a trek across America to find his destination: Alaska. McCandless is sick of how people act, and how they simply want 'things.' He says at one point that he can't stand the way people treat one another. The movie begins when Chris has just found an abandoned bus in Alaska. It then flashes back and tells us how he got to that point. After his graduation, Chris tells his parents (played by William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden) that he has intentions of going to law school. He then surprises everyone by disappearing. Along the way he meets two hippies, a farm worker (played nicely by Vince Vaughn) a young girl named Tracy (Kristen Stewart) whom he briefly gets romantically involved with, and a lonely old man called Ron, played admirably by veteran actor Hal Holbrook. Holbrook gives a tremendous performance, just behind Hirsch as the best in the film. We are told why McCandless resents his parents through a narration by his sister Jena. Her narrating the film is one of the movie's problems, but my main concerns were the visual techniques and the pacing of picture. Every once in a while, yellow titles appear on the screen giving us information. This technique was interesting, but it also felt sloppy. I also disliked how at times the movie went extremely fast, and other times it felt as slow as a slug moving across a sidewalk. This made the movie feel uneven, and it kept it from having any sort of flow. Then there were other small things that got to me, such as a scene when McCandless is eating an apple. He talks to himself, saying how delicious it tastes. The scene cuts to different shots several times, but they're all pretty much from the same view, making it feel like one of those cheap home videos. Then at the end of the scene, McCandless looks directly at the camera. Why Penn did this is beyond me. Finally, McCandless, though charming and charismatic, is an odd character, someone who we can't really relate to, and therefore not really care about. However, these flaws aside, there is still a lot to admire in this movie. Eric Gautier's cinematography
beautifully captures the strong locations chosen by Penn, and the performances, especially Hirsch and Holbrook, are terrific. Plus, this is a true story, a remarkable story, and one that requires the viewer to really think about what truly brings us happiness in life. McCandless tells us in one simple sentence at the very end of the movie. Though it isn't as good as the book, 'Into the Wild' still packs a punch, though mainly in the storytelling department.