INTO THE WILD (***3/4) - Starring Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Hal Holbrook, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener and Kristen Stewart.
Directed by Sean Penn.
This movie probably wouldn't make my top ten, but definitely in the second ten for 2007.
My wife and I caught this at the $1 theater. One of the problems with the $1 theater is they don't care that much about quality. Once the previews were over, the frame wnetoff the screen and tocuhed the wall. The sound disappeared and we started geting chunks of the pre-previews soundtrack, like ten seconds of Dr. Who, followed by ten seconds of an eye-exam ad. Words are coming up on the screen, and there's a shot of Marcia Gay Harden crying, and everyone in the audience is going, "Is no one up there?"
I went out and found a worker and told him to fix the sound and framing. He said someone was already on it. After another two minutes of nonsense, I stormed out the theater doors and yelled into the lobby, "Can someone fix the sound please?!" I saw a worker who replied, "Is it still not working?" "No! We're over four minutes into the movie and the framing is all wrong and the sound is gone and we're getting Dr. Who playing."
The sound was fixed thirty seconds later. They never did fix the framing.
It's based on the true story of a young man named Chris McCandless who wanted to reconnect with nature. Sean Penn has gorgeous shots throughout, where part of me understood this kid's desire to just leave society and live an unencumbered life for a while.
At the same time, even though Penn frames Chris as an angelic creature, he's really pretty selfish. He leaves his parents and sister without warning and never communicates to them where he is or if he's okay.
Chris goes from location to location, all across American and Mexico and winding up in Alaska. Along the way he runs into several different characters, each acting as a mini-surrogate family, most trying to talk him out of his hobo ways and get in touch with his real family.
It's a mild tragedy, a kid with no much potential, who realizes when it's too late where true happiness comes from. It's a beautifully filmed project, and probably Penn's best film to date.
Acting-wise, Emile Hirsch is great as Chris, and Hal Holbrook very much earns his Best Supporting Actor nomination as an old man who can't convince this idealist to behave wisely.