We went to see Sean Penn's "Into the Wild" yesterday. The film is an adaptation of Jon Krakauer's excellent book with the same title. I first learned about Chris McCandless a few years ago while staying at a guest cabin (one of a few cabins) owned by a sled dog owner and his wife on Stampede Road near Denali National Park. I picked up an old issue of Alaska magazine and read the spirited exchange of letters between people discussing media coverage about Chris's death. I had to find out more and tracked down Krakauer's article in Outsider magazine and a copy of "Into the Wild" before leaving Alaska. Turns out Stampede Road is where Chris headed into the Alaskan wilderness.
I asked Mr. Dem after leaving the theater, how well do you think this film will stand up for people who didn't read the book? It's our guess that it won't -- despite the beautiful photography, soundtrack and outstanding performances.
I really appreciate the way Sean Penn told Chris's story. It's obvious that Penn had a fondness for Chris McCandless, a belief in the value of his story and respect for the McCandless family. But, after seeing the film, I'm again reminded of the brilliance of Krakauer's storytelling. His personal observations helped me to understand Chris McCandless and to understand why his story is a story about all seekers of meaning in an increasingly shallow culture.
The casting in this film is exceptional. William Hurt gives an amazing performance as does Catherine Keener.
See this film but if you haven't yet read "Into the Wild," go get a copy and read it first.
Here's MaryAnn Johanson's review.