By Fred Topel | Image property of Paramount Vantage.
Into the Wild
I have pretty much hated every movie Sean Penn has acted in this millennium. I found everything from I Am Sam to Mystic River showy and manipulative. I found everything from 21 Grams to The Assassination of Richard Nixon pretentious and not as important as it thought it was. Nothing against the man's talents, I just wish he'd use his powers for good and not trite. At least The Interpreter was delightfully mediocre.
Yet I have loved the movies he directed. The Crossing Guard was an awesome character study and The Pledge really turned the cop drama on its head. With Into the Wild, Sean Penn the director continues to impress me.
Movie Review: Into the Wild
If you want to look up the real life story of Christopher McCandless, that's the story of Into the Wild. I guess if you want to remain spoiler free, I won't divulge the details here.
Much of the movie is McCandless alone in the wild and that is the most compelling stuff. It's all visual action and you totally understand what he's doing. It almost makes you wish he'd stayed alone instead of encountering all those colorful characters along the way. Each one is unique and interesting, and at least one pays off visually. We understand the moose scene because of his encounter with the meat guy.
His initiative is really admirable. I wouldn't apply it towards breaking away from society, but he certainly was a go getter. I think some of the rules he broke were in place for a good reason. Like they require rafting permits so that idiots don't kill themselves in the rapids. But for the most part.
I would take issue with his living in an abandoned bus. That's not really the wild. That's the remains of people, not things that just exist in the wilderness.
His unorthodox decision seems rational to me. He decided what he wanted for himself and got it. He wasn't crazy and he wasn't imposing his wishes on anyone else. He'd explain it if they asked, but he wasn't hurting anyone. His selfish parents would say he hurt them but that's just because they wanted a clone of themselves to validate their existence.
The only thing the movie really doesn't need is the sister's narration explaining what's going on. We see it. She discusses some of the parental backstory but that's also clear from the brief flashbacks we see.
Penn was also good in Sweet and Lowdown and on The Colbert Report. He should do more comedy when he acts. Yeah, that's how I'm wrapping up.