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Into the Wild
Our Rating
3 Stars - Good
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Mpaa Rating
R (for language and some nudity)
Directed By
Sean Penn
Run Time
2 hours 28 minutes
Cast
Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone
Theatre Release
October 19, 2007 by Paramount Vantage

I keep thinking I saw this movie before, except that then it starred Shirley Temple. A lovely young person appears and touches the lives of people from all walks of life, bringing them a little bit of sunshine, and guilelessly showing the way to a better life. But in the other movie there wasn't a close-up of maggots crawling through a moose carcass. Not that I remember, anyway.

Into the Wild is a pretty infuriating movie, because it insists on treating the central character as an escapee from Godspell. In Jon Krakauer's slim, fascinating, and disturbing book by the same title, Christopher McCandless is an ambivalent and somewhat pitiable figure. The son of a high-achieving couple, he did well at Emory University, but dwelt on courses concerning apartheid and the African food crisis. Chris became increasingly agitated by the gap between rich and poor, and revolted at his parents' hard-earned success, as well as their hopes for his life. In a letter to his sister Carine, Chris told how their offer of a new car as a graduation present outraged him. (Chris had significant problems with his father, as Krakauer had with his own father, all of this contributing to the power of the book.)

The verb "to drop out" isn't heard much these days, but that's what Chris decided to do. He would disappear after graduation and travel around the country, living on as little as possible, a resistor to the conformity machine. He abandoned his car, burned his cash, and dined on nuts and berries. The impact on the African food crisis has not yet been reported.

Chris also determined to make his escape in a way that would unmistakably shut his parents out. He arranged that the letters they sent him all summer (in lieu of calling; he had no phone) would ...

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