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"Into the Wild"

Directed by Sean Penn.
Written by Sean Penn.  Based on the book by Jon Krakauer.
Starring Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt and Catherine Keener.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  9/27/07


I didn't really want to see "Into the Wild", but I did hear that author Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" was really good, so I figured, what the hey?  (In fact, I really went because there was a free showing of the film downtown last night.)

And, I'm glad I got off the couch, because "Into the Wild" may start a bit slowly but by the time it is finished, you are caught up in the quest of one man to find his way up to Alaska.  That man is Alex Supertramp, born Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), a 22-year-old kid who has just graduated with honors from Emory University and now plans to do one thing--run off and see the country, burning his personal belongings, dumping his bank account and giving money away to charity, and running as far away from his dysfunctional parents (William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden) as possible.  Where does that lead?  Adventures to California with hippies (Catherine Keener and Brian Dierker), a stint in South Dakota with a cropper (Vince Vaughn), the Pacific Northwest, Mexico, and Alaska, to name a few places that Alex goes...and, it takes about two years for Alex to get to Alaska, where he plans to live off the land and live out his life in peace.  All of this is based on the true life of Mr. McCandless.

I loved the Alex character mainly because there are so many elements about him that I identified with from a travel and life attitude standpoint; you don't know yourself until you've really had to struggle on your own, that sort of thing.  I also loved that he went out to meet random people in random places, and that he got to see so much of the country in such a short span of time.  Sure, at times he looks like he might be totally insane, but in general, Hirsch plays Alex with a "joie de vivre" (a little français, anyone?) that is quite refreshing.

And, the supporting actors all bring a little something different to the table, be it Vaughn's funnyman shtick or a sad and needy love interest from a 16-year-old (Kristen Stewart).  The best actor in the whole film, though?  Hal Holbrook, who I actually thought was freakin' dead...his character, Ron Franz, has maybe the best moment in the film late as he parts ways with Alex, and from what I could tell, there wasn't a dry eye in the house at this moment.  Spectacular stuff.

That Sean Penn guy is pretty good, and while he doesn't make an appearance in "Into the Wild", his presence is felt throughout, be it through the impressive cast he attracted to the film or the sparse, beautiful cinematography reminiscent of his last feature, "The Pledge."  I wish he would direct more films, but I have heard it is quite a time drain and you can't be a badass actor and a badass filmmaker too, eh?

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09