Into the Wild (2007)

Into the Wild

Emile Hirsch goes “Into the Wild”

It takes me a while to finally get in the mood to see a movie sometimes, mainly when someone ruins it for me. Such is the case with Into the Wild.

Spoilers, as I will not be able to review the film without mentioning really what happens. The movie (based off of the book of the same name) tells the story of a real life student and athlete named Chris McCandless (played wonderfully by Emile Hirsch). After graduating from Emory University and endless doors opened for his future, he decides to leave it all behind and venture towards Alaska into the wild. The more the film talks about him, the more we realize that he is not likely to survive (he does not).

We hear the story mainly narrated by his sister Carine (Jena Malone), who was the only real person he could connect to growing up. We learn of the past his parents (William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden) have tried to hide from them, and how they made much of his life growing up miserable.

The movie has many characters to introduce us to (as well as Chris). There are two hippies, Rainey (Brian Dierker) and Jan (the irreplaceable Catherine Keener), Wayne (a rare dramatic role for Vince Vaughn, and done rather well), Kristen Stewart as Tracy, a young singer who catches Chris’s eye, and, most heartbreaking of all, Hal Holbrook as Ron (which gained Holbrook an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor). Their last scene is as moving as any well acted scene I can remember. The movie also stars Zach Galifianakis, but I admit I was so involved I did not even notice him (this was before The Hangover made him a star).

The characters that did not add to the film, I feel, were Mads (Thure Lindhardt) and Sonja (Signe Egholm Olsen). We meet them while Chris is traveling the Colorado River. He is there for a bit, but has to leave because the authorities are after him (he is traveling the river without a license).

The movie is directed by acting icon Sean Penn (who also did the screenplay), who adds more than just his acting advice (all the actors had to have been influenced by him because all are on their A game here). He seems to remind us of the beauty of nature without having to add to it (no camera trickery is used).

Parents, the movie is not for kids, as there is a good amount of swearing and some nudity (which I don’t think was really needed at all). I would say the most mature of High Schoolers and above are ok with it).

Looking up some information online, I realized a lot of people have become fans of Chris McCandless (some, sadly, have even died trying to find the place where he lost his life). I am not an outdoors person myself that much, but I would be interested to go. I, too, would not only want to see what Chris did, but feel I need to see it as well.

Overall: Four Stars ****

 

Snow Angels (2007)

Snow Angels

Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale.

 

67% is where Snow Angels stands on Rotten Tomatoes. It made a little over 400,000 dollars GLOBALLY. I state these facts not to turn you away from the movie, but as proof that this may be one of the most underrated films I have ever seen. I named it my favorite movie of 2008, and I still stand by that.

It starts off at a Marching Band practice (I did Marching Band in High School, and this movie gets it right). We here two gun shots, and we know this movie is about a small town. The story is a slice of life. There are two main characters (the first is Arthur) that we see the lives of. The first is Annie (Kate Beckinsale, in what may be her best performance), a run down, divorced mom of one living with her own mother. She works at the local Chinese Restaurant with Arthur, (Michael Angarano), who Annie used to babysit. The dialogue here is so real it is almost scary (notice the scene at the begining where Annie is talking about a time she “married” Arthur to another kid when Arthur was young).

Both characters have flaws that are not like ones you will find in cliche movies, but that you would find in life. Annie is trying to recover from her divorce from Glenn (played outstandingly by Sam Rockwell), who is trying to recover from his past mistakes. Meanwhile, Annie is having an affair with Nate (Nicky Katt), the husband of her co worker Barb (Amy Sedaris). Katt plays Nate as someone who is (like so many in real life) really REALLY bad at lying.

Arthur’s parents are on the eve of divorce, and then meets the new girl Lila (Olivia Thirlby, also great here). There are seldom scenes in any movie I have ever seen that are truer than those with Arthur and Lila. Their chemistry together is truly magical, and is a testament to the young actors’ talents. It is one of the best examples of young love I have seen on celluloid (the scene where they say they like each other is sensational).

Things happen in “Snow Angels” that are funny, but also things that are very sad. I won’t ruin them for you. All I will say is that the director (David Gordon Green, who made this before he was making comedies like “Your Highness” and “The Sitter”) has made a film about normal people with normal struggles. There are so many examples of human behaviors that are hidden in site on the screen: a kid opening their eyes during a prayer, people saying “Cool Beans”, a school getting out early to help with a community issue, and so on.

Parents, the movie is rated R for Language and some sexual material. There are a lot of swears, but none that the normal High Schooler has not heard. The sexual material is there, but very brief. That all aside, this movie is a forgotten masterpiece, that deserves more attention.

Rating: Five Stars *****