Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. I had a chance to see this on Thursday night, and it’s going to be a little while before I publish my own reaction to the movie. Suffice it to say that it’s a film I think people will react strongly to, and we got these two reviews from a test screening that evidently also took place this week. This first guy gave us some quick impressions of how it worked on him:
Despite the gut wrenching reaction I get thinking about Sean Penn and his over the top, self-indulgent "IS THAT MAH DAUGHTER IN DERE???!?!?!?!" acting and patronizing political posturing - the trailer for the "Into the Wild" did honestly look intriguing. It looked like a blend of Grizzly Man with some of Malick's and Van Sant's lyricism. To be honest, I knew nothing of the book or person it's based off of but the trailer's apparent visuals, beauty, and escapist theme was enough for me to trek the ridiculous commute to Westlake Village in the middle of rush hour. After getting there 2 hours early to find 75 people already in line, we eventually got in and watched the 2.5 hour flick. While astoundingly acted, beautifully shot, and with an appropriately folky soundtrack - the movie didn't have the inherent, natural power of a Malick film which I was (totally unfairly) expecting. Despite it not reaching those God-like expectations, it did stand remarkably well on it's own. Heavily rooted in naturalist literature like James Joyce and Thoreau it approaches societal escapism from a much more wizened perspective. Although, we slowly learn philosophy is not the entire reason for the lead's departure. As the main character, Christopher tramps across the US, he has beautifully poignant and funny encounters with a wide variety of folks across the nation. They are all unique and perform at such equally high caliber that it's difficult to single out one as the most impressive. I will note it's was a rare and interesting role to see Vince Vaughn in and I totally bought his character without thinking, "God, that's Vince Vaughn" every time he was on screen. For a movie about a dude wandering around nature the whole time, it moved surprisingly fast. The pacing was spot on and I never drifted or lost interest...in fact, I even thought it would benefit with some more slower, lingering shots of nature. The ending, which I won't spoil at all was a surprise (I, again, am not familiar with the story) but it worked beautifully. I've found myself thinking about this movie all day since I saw it last night, which is rare and a hallmark of something special. There's not a lot of movies like this made...and made this well. ~Weazal
This next guy has a number of issues he articulates, but I think he’s still saying that he liked the movie a lot. I don’t know how malleable the film is at this point... it felt pretty finished to me. But this guys definitely has some things he wants to say about it...
Harry, I had the opportunity to see Sean Penn’s new film, “Into The Wild,” in Westlake Village, CA the other night. I wasn’t going to write anything about it. However, it’s been a couple of days and I noticed that no one has made any mention of the film on this site. So, I thought I’d contribute a few of my impressions, in case anyone might be interested. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, because it was a test screening, I wanted to share some of my thoughts with the filmmakers, in the event that they might be checking in, because the standard questionnaire, in my opinion, didn’t allow sufficient room to do so. This “scoop” will not be a standard review, per se. Rather, this scoop will be more or less an addendum to my questionnaire. I think I should mention that I’m a tremendous fan of Jon Krakauer’s book and, when I heard that Sean Penn was directing it, I was quite relieved. I’ve been a tremendous fan of his writing and directing for years, as both conjure up fond memories of one of my personal heroes, John Cassavetes. For those of you wondering what the story is about, watch the trailer and/or check out IMDb or Amazon. Either, I’m sure, will do it more justice than I can. Personally, although I liked the trailer, it did sound an alarm bell in the back of my mind. Why? Well, honestly, because it looked too “good.” By that, I mean it looked, for lack of a better word, “overproduced.” Still, because it was the trailer and because it’s designed to put asses in seats, I told myself that the marketing department (or whoever was in charge) probably jammed every money shot into it that they could. The film, I hoped, would be more subtle. All I can say is that I’m relieved that the film won’t open for a little while yet because it could benefit from some further judicious cutting. Hopefully, the test screening process has helped show the filmmakers which areas are working better than others and helped them develop a strategy for the next round of editing. Before I dive into my “concerns,” I’d just like to say that, thankfully, whatever problems I perceived to be in this cut are all FIXABLE via further trimming -- and, given that the current running time is well over two hours (perhaps 140 min., if IMDb can be believed), I’m sure the filmmakers are planning to do so anyway. I’d also like to say that, although this addendum to my questionnaire won’t go into all of the solid aspects of the film, there were many. In particular, Brian Dierker, Hal Holbrook, and Catherine Keener do outstanding work, in addition to a few elderly gentlemen who, I’m assuming, are non-actors. (Perhaps Dierker falls into this latter category, too.) In fact, part of me wishes every actor in the film could have been an unknown or a non-actor, but they’ve gotta sell tickets, right? Anyway, a few of my thoughts are as follows... THE BEGINNING. Overall, I felt like there were too many beginnings to the film and that the filmmakers needed to pick one in particular and go with it. I can’t remember all of the beginnings, so it’s difficult to list all of the ones I could do without. However, I do remember that the one, which featured Chris’ mother (Marcia Gay Harden) waking up in the middle of the night, stood out because it seemed the least necessary. I’m not sure if this incident occurred in real life. My guess is that some version of it probably did. However, I don’t think it should be included in the opening of the film because it felt artificial, like a hook that was inserted for the sake of having a hook. And I honestly don’t feel like you need that. The story, overall, has one hell of a hook all by itself. Trust in it. THE OPENING LETTER. Although I appreciate that this letter represents Chris’ own words and that it builds up to the main title of the film, I felt that the superimposition, combined with the big yellow letters, was very distracting from the establishing shots of Alaska, which I think work fine all by themselves. If you are dead-set on using this letter to open the film, it might be best to have Chris’ sister read it via voice-over, thereby establishing the pattern that follows throughout the rest of the film. BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL. The quick scene, during which Chris is eating an apple (and Hirsch appears to be improvising), featured a moment at the very end where Hirsch broke the “fourth wall’ and looked straight into the camera. Please, consider losing this in the next cut. It reminded me that I was watching a movie, and I did not want to be reminded. I wanted to remain immersed. THE CHAPTER HEADINGS. I can’t remember how many of these there were in the film – four or five, I think – but I think that, in the current cut, they do more harm than good. When the first one appeared, I was surprised that this was considered to be the first chapter, especially after all of those beginnings, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many chapters we had left. Three? Five? Ten? When the second chapter heading appeared, I remember being worried that I might be in the theater all night. THE FLASHBACKS. I strongly feel that the flashbacks to Chris’ childhood could be eliminated. If I’m correct, there are currently two flashback schemes at work in the film. The first flashes from Alaska back to the stops along Chris’ journey to get there, which is fine. The second flashes from the film’s “present” to Chris’ formative years, which is, in my opinion, comprised of superfluous, rather than essential, exposition. As audience members, we understand that Chris had a problematic childhood very, very quickly. Honestly, a little goes a long way in this regard. THE POINT-OF-VIEW. I didn’t mind that the film used Chris’ sister to help tell the story via voice-over narration. However, I do feel that Chris’ sister could have been better established. If I’m correct, the first time we meet Chris’ sister is when she and Chris arrive at his graduation dinner, but this was slightly confusing. For a while there, despite Chris’ father chastising her about driving the car, I still wasn’t 100% sure if this girl was Chris’ girlfriend or his sister or what. Regardless, I thought that the scenes, which showed what Chris’ family members were going through while Chris was on his adventure, were a distraction, not to mention a violation of what should have been the point-of-view of the movie (Chris’s point-of-view!). I didn’t need them. Chris’ sister’s voice-over was plenty. Anyway, these are just a few of my impressions. I have more, but who the fuck am I? Perhaps the few I’ve mentioned can be of good use to someone. -Anonymous