Well, kind of. The film is undeniably gorgeous. The camera follows our hero, Christopher/Alexander (Emile Hirsch), across the United States on his way to Alaska, as he encounters lots of white people (including characters played by the incredible Catherine Keener, the always awesome Jena Malone and a very “Vince Vaughn-ey” Vince Vaughn) and passes through some of the most spectacular scenery the USA (and a wee bit of Mexico) has to offer.
It’s a voyage of discovery – both of the nation and of the self. But while the uncovering of the
It is probably just my cynical nature, but the voiceovers that strung the main sequences together ended up feeling fairly pretentious. I reckon I should know, because on occasion (and I am sure on this blogsite), I have been known to overindulge in attempts at the poetic. As I am fairly brutal about this style when it is in my own writing, I can be similarly critical of it when employed by others. For example, in Into the Wild, the descriptions of Chris/Alex’s parents bordered on the melodramatic, and there were times when we in the audience were left with the impression that Chris/Alex was actually a bit of a spoiled prat.
However, my hack hackles were really raised when the “main message” of the film was revealed after about 140 minutes [spoiler alert!]. When Chris/Alex wrote in his papers [stop reading now if you don’t want to know] the words “Happiness is only real when shared“, I was ready to throw what remained of the popcorn at the screen. A lovely sentiment to be sure, but cheapened considerably by the fact the guy was utterly miserable at the time. It is one thing to realise in the throes of joy that one would be happier when sharing it with others; it is another thing entirely to have such a revelation when ill and depressed – so I was half-wanting to grab his paper and write “Misery loves company” in big angry letters to shake him out of this (to my way of thinking) self indulgence.
Again, it was probably just my cynical nature, but the quasi mysticism and undertones of depth got to me after a while. It is a beautifully shot film with well portrayed, believable characters throughout. But, for me, it never attains the “close to being a masterpiece” honour that the DVD cover says Margaret Pomeranz from the At the Movies bestows, for the simple reason that Into the Wild tries too hard to be deep and meaningful. Whereas, for me, meaning is a place we have to get to, for the most part, on our own.
Verdict: A beautiful film and a fabulous journey, though just a bit too thick with “meaning” for my tastes. 25 out of 50 states.