Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Week 43: Into the Wild

Years ago, hubby and I went on an impromptu camping trip deep in an Ohio state forest. We were young and poor and could only afford the tiniest of tents, which forced us to leave all our gear and food outside all night. Lucky for us, our poverty probably saved our lives as somewhere in the vicinity of 3am, a huge black bear paid us a visit, growled menacingly outside our tent and ate our food while we lay paralyzed by fear on the other side of a one-millimeter vinyl barrier.

That was, needless to say, the last time I went camping. These days, my idea of camping is staying at a Holiday Inn instead of a Hyatt. So you can imagine that watching Into the Wild left me feeling like a bit of a pansy. If you don't already know, Into the Wild is based on the true-life story of Chris McCandless, an upper-middle-class college graduate who decides to chuck all the trappings of his comfortable life in favor of traveling to Alaska to live off the land. And when I say chuck, I mean literally: burning his money, cutting up his social security card, giving his savings account to Oxfam.

It's a pretty noble gesture on one hand. I felt a little sad sitting in my suburban home while he's out petting bald eagles and kayaking on wild river rapids. On the other hand, as you watch Chris disappear off the radar and completely cut ties with his family without ever letting them know what he's doing and if he's alive or dead, I found myself hating him a little. The premise of his story is that Chris' parents had a very rocky and sometimes violent marriage that left him pretty scarred. Scarred enough to walk out of their lives without a trace. It comes across though as a little bit of a spoiled rich kid who doesn't have enough life experience to see that other people have a far worse situation than his own. But I digress.

Sean Penn directs the film and just as I would have guessed, he falls a little bit in love with his own ability to direct things. Like two hours and thirty minutes in love with himself. Much of the scenes in the movie are long with scenery and contemplation and short with action and dialogue. I guess Sean Penn wanted the viewer to get a true feeling of the loneliness and isolation Chris experienced in the wilderness all alone. Mission accomplished. We got the point though, Mr. Penn, after about a half hour. Beyond that, we started fast-forwarding here and there to move things along.

I can't stop thinking about whether or not to admire or loathe McCandless, which I suppose means the film was a succss at stirring up debate and making us question our own life choices. It's a riveting story and the scenery really is amazing to watch. Just keep your fast-forward button handy.

No comments: