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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Into the Wild (***)


Into the Wild is a good movie. The direction by Sean Penn, the cinematography, the screenplay, the music by Pearl Jam, and the performances by Emile Hirsch, Jenna Malone, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, Hal Holbrook, and Kristen Stewart are all very fine. The problem with Into the Wild is that it's a good movie about a complete idiot. Into the Wild tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who abandoned society because he hates his parents to backpack across America, eventually ending up in Alaska after a year and a half.  Along the way he has some amazing adventures, sees breathtaking natural wonders, and meets both interesting and not-very-interesting hippies, tramps, and hobos, most of whom try to talk some sense into him about his life's ambition. Instead of listening to any of them, or any form of common sense, McCandless doggedly pursues this romantic idea he has of living in the wild as an FU to society. He doesn't last very long and in the end F's himself. Despite the very best efforts of the filmmakers to make McCandless' journey deep, meaningful and inspirational, this is a story of a young man throwing away his life. He "learns truths" along the way, the most "profound" of which dawns on him as he starves to death after eating poison berries. Fat lot of good any of those truths do him dead in a bus in the middle of Alaska. It's a damn shame.