Nick Nolte grabs this film and walks away with honors. Every second that he is on screen is memorable. A Walk in the Woods is a sensitive, delicate, seamless comedy. Not the guffawing laugh fest implied in its horrible trailer. No, A Walk in the Woods will leave you filled with gratitude and warmth and a belief that the future is there for us to grab and anticipate with a smile.
"[I hope] that they walk away feeling like they've seen something that isn't that available anymore on the screen." Redford said on the Today Show. "Originally the script was meant for Paul Newman, but if you persevere long enough, it will happen. Nick Nolte was better suited for the part because not only is he smart, but he is undisciplined."
"I was not in shape," Nolte said. "I had a bum hip and knee."
"He never complained," Redford said.
A Walk in the Woods directed with sensitivity by Ken Kwapis is based on travel writer Bill Bryson's 1998 memoir about two men in their seventies who try to walk the Appalachian Trail -- 2,200 miles of America's most unspoiled, spectacular and rugged countryside from Georgia to Maine. Written by screenwriters Rick Kerb and Bill Holderman the writing is sharp. When Nolte asks Redford how he knows so much about trees, Redford says, "From books. Books are TV for smart people."
Redford portrays the aging Bryson, who after spending two decades in England, is fed up with the writing life. In the priceless opening sequence Bryson appears on a talk show in which the host does not listen to his answers, but answers for him with a smug glee. Futility of a writing career haunts Redford. He needs to change his life. Reconnect with his homeland. He needs to go for a walk in the woods, well actually to hike the Appalachian Trail. A change. He needs to refocus his priorities. His values. His space. A charming and skilled Emma Thompson portrays his wife who tells Redford he is too old to hike the Appalachian Trail. Determination is what this film is about -- not only Bryson's determination to hike this awesome trail, but Redford's for getting this film made and determination to not look at aging as an invitation to give up. Bryson invites an old, though estranged friend, Katz (Nick Nolte) to join him. The two are not specimens of physical agility. Nolte has a pot belly, beard and has never looked more narily. But it all works for him. He uses every sinew of muscle to portray a man who -- even though running from his debts-- does not regret that he has lived. He has come to terms with his alcoholic past while Redford is struggling to come to terms with his present. A bond is formed and is intense while a serenity dominates the friendship. This film. A resolve. A gentleness that comforts and becomes gratitude for life despite its pitfalls and foibles. A Walk in the Woods blows a kiss of friendship. We witness a friendship between Bryson and Katz reunited after thirty years. The idea of a friendship lost and regained. A Walk in the Woods confronts the fear of aging. "When everyone is retiring, I want a second act," Redford said. This film offers that hope -- that one will look at tomorrow with the happy thought of "what's next"?