Into the Wild is a movie by Sean Penn, based on Jon Krakauer‘s book, starring Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, Hal Holbrook and Zach Galifianakis.
Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsch) has just finished university and decides to drop out. He is fed up with the dishonesty of the lives around him, his parents’ (Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt) loveless marriage, the unfairness of capitalism. So he packs his things and takes off on a cross-country tour of the USA. Without any money and avoiding any contact with his parents and sister (Jena Malone), he sets off with the big goal to go to Alaska, encountering various people along the way.
Chris McCandless story is interesting and touching and Sean Penn found himself an amazing cast to tell it. Unfortunately he is not the world’s greatest director and the cinematography could have been better, too (he’s very lucky that Emile Hirsch is as pretty as he is, because that camera spends an inordinate amount of time shoved in his face). But despite that, it is still a very good film to watch.
There is a good deal of romantization going on, which is not surprising. Chris McCandless’ idealism is rather infectious, however misguided it may be (politically, we can talk about it. But his notion of basically finding salvation in wilderness? Well…) and his own romantization can get to you. But it never gets so much that you can’t watch the film anymore.
If it was only Sean Penn, I think that the movie would have focussed too strongly on the idealism. But thankfully, there’s Emile Hirsch, who plays the role phenomenally and doesn’t make Chris completely unbearable. [I’m just noticing how negatively I obviously react to idealism. Apparently I really am Pragmatic Girl (with a smaller superpower of Cynicism) for life…] He’s so very honest in his search that you can forgive his assholery.
Generally, the cast was very good. It was great to see Catherine Keener, as usual. And William Hurt was amazing: there’s this one scene where he breaks down that sent goosebumps up and down my arms. It was awe-inspiring.
Sean Penn did not make me happy as a director and I really thought that the cinematography could have been better. There were so many opportunities for spectacular nature shots which just didn’t really happen for me. But neither is actually bad.
Summarising: The film wins mostly because of the cast. But it definitely wins.