Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild
It's hard to like a movie where the main character is a self-obsessed, whiny-assed, young idiot with mommy and daddy issues, who thinks everything he thinks and does has never been thought or done before, and who has zero regard for anyone else's feelings but his own. His death (I don't consider that a spoiler since this movie is based on a well-documented true story), he brings on himself and frankly, I consider it suicide, since if he had any sense at all he never would have put himself in the situation he ends up in. And since this main character is in practically every scene of this movie, this wasn't a movie that I could enjoy.
Emile Hirsch stars as Christopher McCandless, a recent college graduate, from an abusive family. After graduating, he gives away his life savings of $24,000 to charity and sets off on a cross-country journey with the eventual destination of Alaska in mind where he intends to go "into the wild". Along the way he meets a host of different people, all of whom inexplicably like him and treat him kindly. None of this deters him from his quest of abandoning them all and going his own way.
Although he meets quite a few characters, the only one he meets that manages to generate any genuine emotion or add any spark is the elderly man he meets near the end of the movie, played by Hal Holbrook. Although even these scenes are over-rated because the character is played by Hal Holbrook. If an unknown older actor had played the part, I doubt if you'd be hearing any Oscar buzz about the part, no matter how good a job he did.
The whole movie plays out (apart from the ending), like a hippy's dream. You know, the whole drop-out, tune-in, back to nature idea. Most of the people he meets I would classify as a hippy or at least hippy-like. Which, you know, great, good on ya, if that's the lifestyle you want to chose, but it's not a lifestyle I'm interested in or care about, and frankly I feel that the whole idolization of the sixties culture and ideals has always been overblown and looked at through rose-tinted glasses.
About the only good thing this movie can offer is some nice scenery, which I don't need to watch a movie over two-hours long to see. This might be somebody's idea of a good time, but it's certainly not mine.
Hal Holbrook and Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild.
Exactly. This is one pretentious movie. Penn wants us to sympathize with and admire this ignorant and very selfish young man. I didn't at all. The performance by Emile Hirsch is not very good to begin with and it is very difficult to pity or admire a character that spends the entire movie thinking only of himself. He repays all the acts of kindness shown him by turning his back on everyone he meets.
The supporting players are about the only thing this movie has going for it. Besides the much talked about performance by Hal Holbrook, there are solid turns from Catherine Keener, Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt. Even Vince Vaughn is better than Hirsch who seems wooden and awkward.
This movie is way too long and could very easily have been trimmed. I lost count of how many scenes were underscored by Eddie Vedder's singing or Jena Malone's narration, but there was too much of both. The scenery is nice to look at but the story was done better 40 years ago in My Side of the Mountain. As far as I'm concerned Into the Wild should get lost.
For such an independent person, he sure relied on lots of people.
Sean Penn, who directed and wrote the screenplay, would have us believe that Christopher began wandering the country, and living as a hermit because his parents sometimes argued. Although Christopher was twenty three years old, Penn is still laying the blame on two people Christopher spent very little time with since graduating highschool. Most kids witnessed their parents bicker. Many kids saw their parents drink. We all discover that they are not what we thought they were when growing up, but most kids do not hit the road as a big F.U. to two people who paid for their very expensive education. He even gave away $24,000 that his parents provided him with for Harvard law school. Hell, this idiot got offended when his parents offered to buy him a brand new car as they were so proud of him for graduating college. Christopher McCandless, as Penn wrote him, was an ungrateful little prick.
As Scott wrote, his death was practically a suicide. He was so arrogant that he felt he could survive in the wilderness without any experience. When he was in civilization, he relied on the kindness of strangers for rides, food and jobs. Sheer ignorance, and an inflated ego, made him think he could suddenly live on his own in the wilderness?
McCandless was hardly the first young man to want to put off responsibility and escape from life. How many young people join the military to get away? Jack Kerouac went on the road 50 years prior to McCandless. Most young men want an adventure. There is nothing new about a young man being scared to face responsibility. I find it interesting that some people emulate his cowardice, masked as deep thought. People do not hide from society because they are brave, they do it because they are scared shitless.
Christopher went into the wild, but it was hardly because of his parents alone. He read a lot and was obviously not a huge social person. Did he ever get laid in college? Did he get his heart broken by anyone? Did a particular instructor influence him? Did he do anything, but get good grades and read books? There is so much that could explain his motive for treating his family so rudely, but Penn lays it all solely at his parents feet. I think that makes Penn a prick as well.
Photos © Copyright Paramount Vantage (2007)