Whatever happened to Nick Nolte?
The words of a Johnny-come-lately film reviewer if ever there were some.
Bill Bryson, as far as I can tell from my own limited exposure to his books, writes fun, light-hearted content, focusing on the amusing quirks and idiosyncrasies of people and the lands in which they live.
It’s this sense of light-hearted fun that would appear to have been quite successfully harnessed by Director Ken Kwapis, in the big screen adaptation of Bryson’s, A Walk In The Woods.
Bill Bryson (played with a certain air of aloofness by Robert Redford), has reached a point in his life where he senses there’s something missing, and as he seems to be constantly and effortlessly sliding into the role of social leper, decides to stop the ride, get off and do something a little less human contact-oriented instead.
The Appalachian Trail stretches for almost 2,000 miles and statistics suggest that less than 10% of those that attempt to walk it, ever complete it; just the ticket for a man of dubious fitness, in the latter part of middle age and naturally a prospect that deters any of Bryson’s circle of friends from accompanying him on the journey – bar one…
Enter Nick Nolte…
Nolte plays Stephen Katz, an ex-alcoholic, grizzly bear-like mess of a man and an ex ‘friend’ of Bryson’s. He’s been off the radar for some time and although not specifically invited, he’s somehow heard about the trek and insists upon tagging along.
There are no other takers, so Bryson, against his better judgement, agrees to his offer, much to the disapproval of his wife Catherine, (played by Emma Thompson).
With neither man in any fit shape to trek 20 miles, let alone 2,000 miles of unforgiving terrain, you can guess where this is all heading and off they set with much japery and hilarity all set to ensue.
It’s all quite jolly, if a little too often resorting to the predictable. I’d wager that there’s certainly at least some extra content that’s been added for dramatic effect into what is, after all, not exactly edge-of -the -seat cinema.
The true thrust of the film lies though in Bryson and Katz’s frequently comical interactions, both with one another and with the world at large on a journey that gradually leads them to the realisation and acceptance of who they are and what ultimately is important to them.
Does it all stay faithful to the book? This I couldn’t say having not read it, but as an occasionally thought-provoking bit of fun that raises some chuckles and more or less sustains the interest throughout, A Walk In The Woods just about hits the mark.