Labor Day weekend offers a wonderful opportunity for nature lovers and adventurers to take a walk in the woods, but if you are like me and have a slight aversion to bugs, a huge aversion to snakes and have Pepe Le Pew and his friend
visiting on a regular basis and living in the nearby woods, you may want to escape the heat and spend a couple of hours with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte as they walk the Appalachian Trail in the film adaptation of Bill Bryson’s marvelous book, A Walk in the Woods. After the film was optioned, the original casting plans were Robert Redford and Paul Newman and, while that partnership would have been great to watch, I am glad my memory of Newman and Redford acting together will always be as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The book and movie tell the story of Bill Bryson’s (Robert Redford) return to America after twenty years in Britain and the decision made by Bryson to hike the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail with his childhood friend from Iowa, Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte), who he had lost touch with over the years. A major difference between the book and movie is that Bryson and Katz were in their forties when they actually hiked the trail compared to Redford and Nolte who attempt to hike the trail while in their seventies. The movie includes a large dosage of male humor, a smaller dose of age related humor, too small a dosage of Emma Thompson playing Bryson’s wife, and a wonderful dosage of time spent celebrating nature, friendship and the human spirit. The screen presence of Nolte is amazing and is complimented by the reserved nature of Redford. One of the wonderfully subtle things about the movie is watching Redford lose the detached uncomfortable expression that seems to surround his perfect life in New Hampshire. As the days progress on the trail, you begin to see the youthful glimmer in Redford’s eyes and smile as he slowly relaxes on the trail and begins to laugh at himself, Katz and all the wonderful memories that are brought forth by Katz’s stories about their youthful trip to Europe and their childhood. The movie provides a perfect balance between showing Bryson’s successful career and happy family and the hard-lived life of Katz and the way his addiction has controlled his life, but never making you feel sorry for Katz’s struggles or comparing the two men’s lives. Instead, the movie celebrates their friendship with humor and understanding and reminds us all that is it is never to late to start a new adventure with an old friend.
In honor of our new neighbor, Pepe Le Pew, I thought it was fitting to show a cartoon before the trailer, like they use to in the old days.