Bill Bryson is one of the funniest writers in English today.
I remember reading The Lost Continent back in 1984 and nearly requiring oxygen. He is a man who loves words, loves travel and makes funny and poignant observations of the seemingly mundane. In many ways, he is a writer’s writer, especially having produced dictionaries for editors.
Much of the humour in Bryson’s work comes from the way he describes moments, not the moments themselves. Getting under an awful shower in a motel might not be intrinsically humorous, but when Bryson writes words to the effect of “when I say I had a shower: water dribbled on me from a hole in the wall”, it’s uproariously funny.
So he is an odd choice to film.
But Robert Redford has decided to have a crack at producing one, and if anyone was going to do it…Redford might just be the man.
Directed by Ken Kwapis, A Walk in the Woods is based on Bryson’s 1998 book , which recounts his adventure walking part of the Appalachian Trail (the world’s longest footpath), with his friend, Stephen Katz. Redford plays Bryson whilst the wonderful Nick Nolte plays the clown-like Katz. Kristen Schaal pops up as the annoying Mary Ellen and Emma Thompson book-ends as Bryson’s supportive, yet bemused, wife, Catherine.
There is not much in the way of plot, most of the film being short and usually humorous scenes with spectacular shots of the trail itself.
This is a pleasantly enjoyable film. What it lacks in meaning, it makes up for in charm, however, it certainly doesn’t capture Bryson’s humour: if anything, Redford portrays him as a bit of a dour misery-guts.
But then again: maybe he is!!
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Rating out of 5: 3