No 473 - Into The Wild
Director - Sean Penn
I had a really brilliant quote that I wanted to put as my title however I forgot to write it down. And IMDB has failed me! I'm shocked and appalled.... but to business!
When I think of Emile Hirsch, I cannot help but cast nostalgic memories towards one of my guiltiest of pleasures. It is Hirsch's character in this film that means I can't see him play the grittier characters. Although this film has really shown how excellent his acting abilities are.
It is not only Emile Hirsch that surprises me, even the title credits managed to summon up a few surprising names.
The first is Vince Vaughn. I know he is a proper actor and that but seeing him be a grown up in a proper grown up film is a pleasant difference from the norm.
This film also has Jena Malone in it, who I haven't seen since Donnie Darko (although she was in a film called Saved.... which I never saw). She is lovely and very pretty in the few brief scenes she spends in the film as Emile Hirsch's sister. Sadly she is not in it enough.
(She is in a band! And quite Rock and Roll! All the pretty girls are in bands these days....
.....oh my GOD! They're in a film together! This is all too exciting, I'm getting sidetracked)
You see, no one really appears in the film for long. It is very much Emile Hirsch's film and his character (Christopher McCandless... or Alexander Supertramp) is the only focus of the film. There are other characters, and some of them truly shine and will get mentioned in this blog but they only flit through Hirsch's story. This film is utterly his story.
Christopher McCandless is an odd fellow. At the beginning I wasn't sure if I liked him. He seems quite self important and pretentious. He quotes Dovstoyesky and poets, getting them to fit his conversation - things like that seem a bit smart aleccy. At the start I wasn't even sure about his motives for his great walk into the wilderness. He sends $24,000 to Oxfam. Which is cool. But he adds a note saying "These are all my savings" - the cynical bastard bit of me thinks he adds little notes like that to give his donation even more importance. It seems a bit egocentric.
However, he certainly warms on you and you realise that this is just a person with an incredibly strict moral code and a hatred for modern society's views on consumerism and jobs. The film sort of follows McCandless's views but is wise in not being a film which sticks it to the man. Whilst it may make light at bureaucracy, the border patrol still let him back into the states without ID after he drifts into Mexico illegally and the non authoritarian characters he meets do have their problems, their disagreements.
However the film does slightly romanticise the nomadic red neck lifestyle. This is hardly a criticism, because I don't think you could make a film like this without slightly romanticising the nomadic lifestyle. The romanticism is the opinion of the main character, and that opinion paints itself onto the film's canvas. The film manages to stay fair by showing some of the horrors and travesties that can happen. For example, McCandless kills a moose in order to preserve the meat. He fails. He is left with a maggoty pulp. It is a pointless death of a majestic animal and McCandless states it as the greatest travesty in his life.
However despite the bleak troughs of darkness (and there are BLEAK troughs), the red neck life still comes out of it gloriously. Even as the FBI come and arrest Vince Vaughn's grain farmer you find yourself cheering Vaughn and booing the FBI.
Then there are the lovely hippies. Jan and Rainey. The first couple that McCandless meets and the only people he meets a second time throughout the film. They are portrayed as wonderful people, and their home of slat city is a lovely commune of hippies and trailer folk. and these people are painted in such a good light that the whole place feels like a glorious utopia.
We get to see old hippies having sex (hmmmm). McCandless turns down the advances of a potential jail bait girlfriend (Kristen Stewart... know the star of twilight, but who was the little girl in Panic Room!!!! Time moves so quickly... I feel so old) and he finds Salvation mountain. A mountain of junk and discarded stuff beautifully made into a home by a little old man. Thanks to this being a true story (oh yeah, I forgot to mention.... this is a true story) I get a warm glow knowing such a place exists. I hope to go one day.
However, utopia or not, McCandless moves on, on his route to Alaska. As winter kicks in, food becomes scarcer and McCandless becomes sicker. And Emile Hirsch gets skinnier and skinnier and skinnier. And we're talking properly. Maybe not to the extent of Christian Bale in the machinist but certainly more than just wearing baggy clothes. Hirsch spends a lot of this film in not much (and at one 'floating in a river on my back' penis revealing scene, he wears nothing at all) so you know he lost the pounds for the role.
It is a level of dedication I'm really impressed with.
In fact, as I mentioned at the start - Emile Hirsch's acting in this film is excellent and I think he is a true star. I hope he will have the chance to truly shine.
And not be upstaged by glitter and candy canes.