An old cliche’ breathes new life in film
“A Walk in the Woods” compiles life values into a larger portrait. Two opposites attract in this heartwarming film about two old friends who come together to take a hike for the ages.
The film, directed by Ken Kwapis and starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, has broken $14 million at the box office since its wide released. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
The story revolves around a hiking adventure that spans the Appalachian Trail. Bill Bryson decides to go on this trek after a funeral reveals to him that he needs to “get back to his roots.” However, he hasn’t hiked in 30 years. After calling several old friends, Bill has no luck finding a companion with whom to go on the adventure. An unexpected call from Katz starts the adventure in a most unfathomable fashion.
The two elderly men decide on taking the trip together, despite having not seen each other in years. The opening dialogue involves Bill discussing the debt that Katz owes him from a previous time—about 600 dollars. The central idea that Katz is always in debt to Bill proves essential as the story unfolds. The two main characters contrast in personality but do have moral similarities.
Bill Bryson is behind the times in his old age. He isn’t interested in his grandchildren’s activities or the fact that he is calmly calloused to life’s sensitive topics like death, debt and disease. He’s financially stable, a recognized author and a professor. He is also highly meticulous and takes the time to look at the smaller things in life throughout his adventures with Katz.
Katz is an old-fashioned man who holds no bars when it comes to his antics. In his mischievous behavior, however, he is conscious of how his actions can affect Bill. In the big picture, he feels like he wasted his life pursuing women and drinking.
The story is very cliche’ in that the characters seem to fit the mold of good cop, bad cop. Bill is the more reserved, conservative guy who made all of the right decisions in life. People seem to always gravitate toward his success and look at him as the guy who “made it.” Katz, on the other hand, is the old drunk at the bar who hits on the younger women. Society looks down on him because he never grew up and got his life together. He is a man with reckless abandon but who has an emotional attachment to his friend Bill.
What the movie lacks in action or stomach-cringing laughter it more than makes up for in moral values and the perspective of how both of the characters view each other. It shows that both men need each other to get through the 2,000-mile trek.
Bill knows that he lacks the common sense and go-getter attitude that Katz has, so he relies on him to know what to do. Knowing that he isn’t as intelligent as his counterpart, Katz depends on Bill to find the most efficient way to get out of a sticky situation.
There are a few loose ends that could have been tied up. There is not much on Katz’s and Bill’s history as friends. The only history that the movie portrays them as sharing is that they are both from Iowa. The rest of the history is very vague and hard to interpret.
Another pitfall of the movie is the predictability. The rise and fall of the storyline is very typical and dry. Many movies these days put the two types of characters together inside of a problem and let each other collaborate to get the most productive outcome in the situation.
Overall, the movie has a huge sentimental value and goes deep into the personality of each character. The characters work seamlessly together, as there was no push or pull kind of tension. Both characters were made for each other. They give and take what is needed, creating a healthy environment to enjoy the movie through all of its moral value.