Into the Wild
What She said:
What would happen if you abandoned society and all its finer
things and began to take life one day at a time, dwelling not on
the physical but on the greater sense of enlightenment that can be
attained? I guess the first question is, can a greater sense
of enlightenment be attained? Or was Christopher McCandless
just full of crap? Anyway, Into the Wild follows
this notion, as a privileged young college graduate, McCandless
(played wonderfully by Emile Hirsch) gives away his life savings,
drives out to the middle of nowhere, and starts a new life with
nothing in his pockets and very little beyond the clothes on his
back. His ultimate goal is to make it up to Alaska, where can
live a solitary existance off the land. But for Christopher,
who takes on the new persona of Alexander Supertramp, it’s quite a
journey to finally make his way up to Alaska. The movie takes
us through the Southwest and West Coast, as Supertramp/McCandless
meets a variety of people who help him out, but ultimately are also
helped themselves in a variety of ways by Supertramp/McCandless’
Into the Wild is a fairly straightforward character
portrait. Mostly, we get to watch Supertramp/McCandless on
his adventures. It’s an observation of Supertramp/McCandless
as he follows his ambitions. At the same time, it’s also
character portrait of each of the individuals he interacts with
along the way. It seems like so many are inspired by his
simple approach to life. Supertramp/McCandless
overcomplicates nothing. In fact, his tragic flaw is his
insistence on thinking too simply. We know that he does
eventually make it to Alaska, as the movie is presented through a
series of flashbacks and flashforwards. And that’s where
things really fall apart for Supertramp/McCandless. I’m not
going to give away too much here, but you may end up thinking this
guy wasn’t quite as wise as many believed.
Hirsch does a fantastic job in the lead role. In fact,
I’ve seen him in other stuff and found him mostly forgettable, but
he seems truly immersed in Supertramp/McCandless. There are
many peripheral characters here, including McCandless’ family,
played by Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, and Jena Malone.
Along the way, Supertramp/McCandless encounters characters played
by Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker, Vince Vaughn, and Kristen
Stewart. It’s sort of funny when you encounter Vince Vaughn,
because for once he’s not trying to be super sarcastic and
funny. It’s just a very natural performance. The movie
starts off a little slow. I had to adjust to its slower
pace. And I’m warning you, it’s a bit long, at 2 ½
hours. But as Supertramp/McCandless’ travels pick up, you’ll
become somewhat engrossed in the journey ahead.
Do yourself a favor, don’t get ahead of yourself with this
one. If you don’t know the spoiler already, don’t start
researching it. I did not realize that this was based on a
true story. Of course, it’s a Hollywood adaptation, and so
there are plenty of differences between what is portrayed here and
what supposedly really happened. After the film concludes,
then you can start looking into the real Christopher
McCandless. The realities are quite interesting.
Anyway, Into the Wild is a visual journey and character
study that may operate a little too slow for some, but pays good
dividends to those who stick with it.
What he said:
Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) has just graduated college.
At the obligatory ceremonial dinner that follows, he informs his
family that he intends to take the remainder of his life savings
and attend Harvard Law. However, that couldn’t be further from the
truth. He actually plans to run away and live in the woods. Yes,
really. He has been planning this for some time and has told no one
of his plans; not even his sister whom he is supposedly close to.
His goal is to travel across the country, eventually make it to
Alaska, and spend the rest of his life living off the land.
Not only did he want to do all of this, but he wanted to do it
the hard way. You see, he donates his life savings to charity. He
has this idea that he has to cut ties with society in order to do
this. As insane as the idea of abandoning society to live in the
woods sounds, he could have at least made it easier on himself had
he kept a little money for himself and bought the proper equipment.
But that wasn’t what he wanted. His philosophy was that in order to
do this, he had to pretty much abandon all the luxuries of modern
society; so he pretty much hitchhiked across the country until he
found his way to Alaska.
Along the way he encounters many people from all different walks
of life. Traveling hippie couple Jan and Rainey (Catherine Keener
and Brian Dierker) are the first people he counters along his way
and the three of them seem to hit it off. He stays with them
for a while and actually ends up meeting them again a few months
down the line (he still hadn’t made it to Alaska at this point in
his journey). He reminds Jan of someone and the two of them
form a bond because of that. Rainey is happy because Jan is happy.
In between staying with them he also encounters a man named Wayne
(Vince Vaughn) who owns a harvesting company and also dabbles in an
illegal cable business. They also hit it off, but Wayne warns
McCandless – who has taken to calling himself “Alexander
Supertramp” at this point – to abandon his plans for living in
Alaska. One of the other more memorable people he meets is an
elderly man named Ron (Hal Holbrook). Hal is retired from the armed
forces and spends his time making a few extra dollars by making and
selling leather products. He and “Supertramp” seem to have very
different philosophies in life, but actually end up becoming close.
Like Wayne, Ron tries to talk him out of this adventure. He even
offers to let him stay with him.
That’s an overarching theme in this movie. McCandless – who was
obsessed with living alone in the woods – seemed to be well-liked by
those he encountered. However, that didn’t stop him from doing what
he set out to do; which was get as far away from people as possible
and live off the land.
This is a well-acted movie
from top-to-bottom. Emile Hirsch was very convincing as this
eccentric character. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but also a
little paranoid and withdrawn; and Hirsch portrayed all the varying
aspects of his personality quite well. The bond he forms with the
supporting characters felt very real. Catherine Keener, Brian
Dierker, Vince Vaugh, and Hal Holbrook – I especially enjoyed him –
were all great. The bond they formed with “Supertramp” felt very
genuine. In what was a bunch of very good performances, I thought
Holbrook’s stood out. I was also impressed with Vaughn’s; who took a
nice break from his typical role.
The only issue I took with the movie was this romanticized
portrayal of what I felt to be a very troubled individual. Some of
what “Supertramp” said made sense. There are things that we as a
society place too much importance on and who can’t identify with
wanting to disappear sometimes? But do abandon everyone you’ve ever
known to fulfill your own personal dreams seems extremely selfish
to me. I understand he had issues with his family, but disappearing
like that has to be hell on them. He supposedly cared about his
sister much more than his parents and didn’t even write her to let
her know how he was doing. The way he went about this whole
survivalist thing – you will see what I mean if you watch the movie
– wasn’t the smartest idea in the world either. I’m not sure if
that is something I see being worthy of being celebrated and
actually felt a little irresponsible in that sense.
Rating: Thumbs up.
This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on July