Into the Wild
- Sean Penn
- Reviewed by
- Josť Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsch) decided to leave his home and give his savings to charity once he graduated in the early 90ís. He had had enough of his cold father (William Hurt) and overbearing mother (Marcia Gay Harden) as well as all things material despite getting along real well with his sister Carine (Jena Malone). He then embarked on a trip to Alaska that took him through different places where he met all sorts of people.
Sean Penn directed from his own screenplay, based on Jon Krakauerís book which was born out of McCandlessí own writings and stories from people he met. His story is definitely interesting and worth telling. I was enthralled by how much I identified with him regarding his initial motivations; there are times when so much materialism can be enslaving, and a difficult situation at home only makes matters worse. Into the Wild touches upon these themes while trying to make us understand Chris, especially as the story moves along and his acts become more selfish by the minute.
Iíve heard complaints about people not really loving the movie because of what Chris did and his whole attitude towards life. Me? I didnít really care, after all itís based on a true story and if the guy was a prick then so be it, I wouldnít have it any other way. At least I understood what took him to that place and yes, he had plenty of flaws but they all seemed pretty real to me. He never ceased to be an interesting and unpredictable man, reasons enough to be moved by his quest at the end of the day.
If there are faults to consider Iíd say they have to do with the script and execution. Being a road movie of sorts it is awfully episodic, with some encounters more interesting than others. The most moving bit is a friendship Chris forms with old lonely Ron (Hal Holbrook), a segment that contains more poignancy than anything else in the entire movie. That leads me to another complaint, which is that it is way overlong and slower than it needed be.
Eric Gautierís photography is beautiful, although I get the impression that a lot more couldíve been done with such breath-taking vistas. Eddie Vedder contributed many fitting songs while also working on the score along with Michael Brook and Kaki King.
Emile Hirsch carries the movie on his shoulders and he seems to have really matured with this role, acting-wise. His transformation is pretty harsh, but most importantly, he gets the man. Hal Holbrook leaves the strongest impression with his small supporting role, a very affecting one. Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn and Kristen Stewart are all excellent.
ďHappiness only real when shared.Ē
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Other reviews of Into the Wild (2007): Groucho
Into the Wild
- Sean Penn
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Monday, August 04, 2008
What we get to see, instead, is the story of a man being pushed by society into something completely senseless. So tired was Chris of conventions and pretense that he chose to leave everything behind and regain his life without compromising. According to the screenplay by Sean Penn, faithful to the source material of Jon Krakauerís passionate book about this peculiar young man, what Chris did is heroic. Surely, it required tons of courage, an amount, in fact, incomprehensible to most of us. Yet, how heroic it is depends on the point of view. The story has been criticized by more than a few Alaskans and several other people who claim that Chrisís ďgreat Alaskan adventureĒ was in fact a terribly irresponsible suicidal act. Thereís been controversy because of this and itís probably one of the reasons why the film wasnít as successful as probably expected when concerning Awards and reception. I wouldnít possibly judge it based on such things but itís true that some controversy is deserved.
Thereís no lie to the fact that Sean Penn glorifies a man who, by some standards, did everything wrong. I think that focus, in itself, is wrong. The story of McCandless cannot be judged by merit or intention, but by the forces of nature and society colliding. Like a feather blown by the wind, McCandless flew away from his life and into another, completely different, one. His is a story of psychological corruption caused by third parties, and, in that, itís totally heartbreaking. To me, Into the Wild is not as much Dances With Wolves (1990) as it is Ordinary People (1980). But it takes some research to figure this out.
Into the Wild is the latest and perhaps the last act of rebellion of the once Hollywood enfant terrible, Sean Penn. Itís been his pet project for around ten years and it finally comes to fruition as a quality piece thatís also quite entertaining and inspiring. The story of Chris McCandless, a.k.a. Alexander Supertramp, broke Pennís heart when he first read it (twice on the first day, according to legend) ten years ago. He felt identified with McCandlessís struggle and decided to bring him to the screen. As it seems, making this happen took a while because he needed full approval of the family who, understandingly, didnít have it easy. When it finally happened, Penn was a much more mature man and filmmaker. Heíd gone through a lot and changed a lot, as far as we could see.
I read that years ago Penn neglected the Academy Awards saying he didnít want a stranger hand to jerk him off; the hand didnít finish the work, yet, anyway, because he didnít win. Years later, he went with the whole thing and humbly accepted his award for Mystic River (2003). Chris McCandless wouldnít have agreed to this, perhaps, from a man who acted like him before. Or perhaps he would have, if he believed that Penn went through his rebellion and then came back to live in society but only after setting his own rules. That, at least, would be the real McCandless, who is said to have wanted to come back and lead a normal life after being left alone with nature for a while. But, according to the film, this wasnít his plan.
The film puts Chris in a position where it was an all or nothing, do or die, point of no return kind of situation, a fate that was agreed on from the very beginning and didnít have much doubt involved. Thatís quite hard to believe. Also, it makes Chris look quite smart, and then avoids the details of some serious mistakes he made. I couldnít swallow all that, and then went on to find that his crucial errors were omitted or disguised somehow. That, in my opinion, reduces the storyís true impact: the great effect of parents in their children.
This kid, the same as Gregor Samsa (the hero of Franz Kafkaís ďThe MetamorphosisĒ), found a path to follow that made absolutely no sense to the eyes of anyone outside his head but which was a manifestation of his rebellion against the life that his parents laid out for him. Everything was just right, until it simply was not, and there was no way back. Samsa ran away, but only in his head, while Chris did so actually, leaving his brilliant college career behind to pursue a new life as ďAlexander SupertrampĒ. His adventures are rich in humanity and learning, but he was an eternal child, a sort of tragic real-life Peter Pan that refused to grow up, at least until he found a good reason to do so. That, at least, is truthful in the film adaptation, which even puts our hero in the position to make love to a gorgeous girl (played by Kristen Stewart) and refusing to do so, blaming it on her age. To my way of seeing it, he was terrified to even dare to touch the girl, because that would mean that heís a man who makes his own adult decisions, instead of a boy whoís blown by the wind.
Perhaps Iím completely wrong in my understanding of this story but, in fact, no one can be totally right because this kid never had the proper psychological attention that could have explained what was driving him. Itís not so hard to see, though. Chrisís parents, wealthy but neglectful of their children, finally come to realization when their son goes missing. The sister, who was always Chrisís best friend and confident, resents the fact that he never called her after he left, but understands him and watches their parents as aliens finally landing on Earth. These people are brilliantly played by Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, and Jena Malone.
One true thing about wild rides like the one that McCandless set upon himself is the assortment of human experiences that are to be had and the many lives that are to be touched in the way. This is one of the filmís best assets. Catherine Keener plays a hippy who finds Chris to be more meaningful than he can possibly imagine, and Hal Holbrook is an absolutely brilliant scene-stealer as a man who finally finds some meaning to life, and particularly to his own existence, thanks to the kid.
But if thereís a performance to applaud, itís Hirschís. Heís totally credible first as a charismatic if pathless young man, then as a desperate and hungry lost soul. His physical struggle is clear and nothing short, Iím sure, of draining. Heís much better, and much more pleasant, however, when his adventure seems optimistic. When it turns out to be much less than that, in intertwined scenes that actually show him in the wild, itís depressing. In the end, I couldnít understand how his figure was supposed to be heroic. If anything, I see the whole thing as a big fat cry for help. I hope parents are listening.
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Other reviews of Into the Wild (2007): Morris