Sundance 2015 Review – A Walk In The Woods (2015)

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To quote Meryl Streep’s Witch from Into the Woods: “You’re so nice. You’re not good, You’re not bad, You’re just nice.” This is exactly how Sundance 2015 premiere A Walk in the Woods should be described. This Robert Redford lead adaptation of the Bill Bryson hit novel/memoir is just plain nice.

After ten years living in England, Bill Bryson (Redford) returns to his US homeland and is faced with a feeling of restlessness. He soon ropes former buddy Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte) into walking the Appalachian Trail with him, yet this journey is not without its complications.

Rick Kerb and Bill Holderman adapt Bryson’s memoir making slight changes to adapt it for its older leading men (Bryson was in his mid-forties when he walked the Trail – Redford is seventy-eight). Kerb and Holderman don’t skimp on the charm and A Walk in the Woods revels in the pleasant and familiar comedy that has come to be associated with actors of a certain age – and become a hit with viewers of a certain age. Playful bickering between Bryson and Katz, cheeky banter surrounding former-loves, and a variety of chuckle-worthy set-pieces ensure this is a light, unassuming watch.

The dynamic between Redford and Nolte really propels A Walk in the Woods. Redford has an elegant, mature charm about him, delivering smooth one-liners with cheeky ease. Nolte’s Katz is the more cumbersome and gruffer of the pair, who commands the screen with an unkempt and grimy energy. The combination of the elegant Redford and the rough-around-the-edges Nolte makes for an intoxicating combination – with both actors ensuring that audiences will most certainly have a good time with A Walk in the Woods.

Refusing to get bogged down in overtly emotional subplots or narrative contrivances, this Ken Kwapis (He’s Just Not That Into You) directed feature is light on character development but tells us just about all we need to know about our protagonists. Instead the emphasis appears to be on fun – and Kwapis and the film’s screenwriters deliver this. Bear attacks, jealous boyfriends, infuriating fellow hikers (Kristen Schaal), and the perils of the weather provide a variety of comic stimuli form Redford and Nolte to tackle with cool ease.

An underused Emma Thompson deserves more attention and Kwapis fails to capture the picturesque beauty of the Appalachian Trail, but with Redford and Nolte on such good form, A Walk in the Woods remains an incredibly nice piece of film.

Andrew McArthur

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Adventure Venue: Sundance 2015 Director:Ken Wapis Cast: Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Mary Steenburgen, Emma Thompson, Nick Offerman, Kristen Schaal