ByCraig Whyel, writer at
Film & TV news, previews and commentary
Craig Whyel

Robert Redford directs and stars in the upcoming adventure/comedy, A Walk in the Woods, based on the memoir by author, Bill Bryson.

Ms. Thompson plays Mrs. Bryson.
Ms. Thompson plays Mrs. Bryson.

In addition to Redford, the film also stars Nick Nolte, Emma Thompson and Mary Steenburgen, as well as Kristen Schaal and Nick Offerman capably featuring in the supporting cast.

Nick Offerman trying to look like Rain Wilson?
Nick Offerman trying to look like Rain Wilson?

Robert Redford plays the author, Bryson, who returns to America after twenty years in the United Kingdom. To celebrate his return, Bryson decides to hike the legendary, two thousand plus mile Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia.

Joining him in his ill-advised trek is his long-lost friend Stephen Katz, played by Nick Nolte. Katz is more than a little down on his luck.

Despite the comedic story and the roster of Academy Awards winners (Redford, Thompson and Steenburgen) and an Academy Award nominee (Nolte), the film didn’t get much love from the critics when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival.

Dennis Harvey, of Variety, said the film was “a light diversion with little substance.”

Matt Brennan, of, called the film a “sub-par cross between Wild and Grumpy Old Men.”

Brian Moylan, of The Guardian, felt the film was “a pleasant enough pootle (crawl) that never gets us very far.”

One of the, by and large, unspoken issues with the film is the matter of age.

Consider first that Bill Bryson was in his mid-forties when he wrote the memoirs in 1998.

Robert Redford, at the time of filming (Spring 2014), was 77. Nick Nolte was 73.

The exertion from a hike so long could reasonably kill someone four or five decades younger.

The bottom line, to that point, was that the willing suspension does a head first leap out the nearest window.

With all due respect, both men are still handsome, despite the burden of time.

Perhaps the naysayers were subconsciously unsettled watching a film carried by two septuagenarians.

After all, since the bulk of Hollywood financing is spent on branding that is most seductive to the all-important eighteen to twenty-five year old demographic, A Walk in the Woods probably took the critics out of familiar territory.

We, as a culture at-large, have many biases. Ageism is one of them.

Robert Redford is considered by many to be an intelligent, highly-serious man. There is nothing wrong with him having a little bit of celluloid fun.

A Walk in the Woods won’t set box-office records. It’s also unlikely to even be nominated for any awards. Still, it looks like a fun film watching experience with a tremendous cast set against the backdrop of some highly picturesque backdrops.

One side note, Robert Redford originally planned to co-star with his longtime friend, the late Paul Newman.

Nick Nolte admirably stepped up.

A Walk in the Woods hits theaters September 2, 2015

It is rated “R.”


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