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article imageReview: ‘A Walk in the Woods’ is about lively reflection Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 4, 2015 in Entertainment
‘A Walk in the Woods’ stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte as believable long-time friends who push their physical limits on one of the world’s longest trails.
Since the movie of the same name’s release, many people have begun making bucket lists of things they’d like to complete in their lifetime. Conversely, more spontaneous and/or adventurous individuals simply create lists of the things they’ve already done. And then there are those who wake up one morning and decide they’re going to take on the most challenging task of their lives — age be damned. The latter is the case in A Walk in the Woods, which chronicles a senior’s attempt to complete the U.S.’s longest trail.
Bill (Robert Redford) is a former travel writer turned university professor turned bored retiree. After living in England for 20 years, he’s returned home. Bill loves his family and tries to keep busy, but he can’t shake a feeling of restlessness. Then during a routine walk he comes across a sign directing hikers on the Appalachian Trail. When he informs his wife (Emma Thompson) he intends to spend the next few months trekking from Maine to Georgia on foot, she unsurprisingly disagrees. After her efforts to dissuade him with newspaper clippings of bear attacks and forgotten bodies fails, she agrees to let him go if he can find a climbing partner. Also predictably, no one he invites is interested in walking 2,200 miles (3,500 km). Finally an old friend with whom he lost touch comes through. Stephen (Nick Nolte) isn’t in the best shape, but he’s all Bill’s got.
This movie is surprisingly entertaining. Benefitting from an amusing script and two seasoned actors with terrific chemistry, audiences are able to just sit back and enjoy their banter. The bulk of their conversations are typical of the “grumpy old men” genre, but both Redford and Nolte have a charisma that age hasn’t tarnished. Whether their bickering, reminiscing or mocking each other, it’s fun to watch. They each also have a couple of solo adventures that involve an underestimated underpass and a woman’s underwear.
As the film concentrates on the efforts of these two men, there are not many other characters except for Bill’s family and the few individuals with whom they briefly cross paths on the trail. Yet, there is one passerby who makes an impression on them and the audience. Kristen Schaal plays Mary Ellen, a talkative, know-it-all who takes up with the duo uninvited. She adamantly disputes their facts and annoys them with her misplaced confidence. In spite of the brevity of her cameo, Schaal’s exchange with the guys is very memorable and a highlight of the picture.
The other aspect of the movie overcome by the bromance is the landscape. Even though the narrative is set on one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world, it’s mostly just a backdrop. While there are some breathtaking scenes, most of the action unfolds when Bill and Stephen are resting. Of course this is probably attributed in some part to their age and agility — Nolte turns red walking up a small hill. Nonetheless, Redford and Nolte are up to the challenge and still worth watching.
Director: Ken Kwapis
Starring: Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson
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