Opening this Week: A Walk in the Woods and Learning to Drive
Posted on August 31, 2015 at 3:15 pm
This week, two movies are based on first-person accounts by writers telling their own real-life stories. In The New Yorker, Katha Pollitt wrote about getting her first driver’s license in her 50’s, after her partner of seven years left her for another woman. When her driving instructor tried to teach her to pay attention to what was going on around her, it felt like a metaphor for the warning signs she had missed about her relationship. The film is “Learning to Drive,” starring Patricia Clarkson and Sir Ben Kingsley. Some of the details were changed, including the ethnicity of the instructor and the duration of the relationship.
One detail that was changed in “A Walk in the Woods” was the age of the protagonists. When Bill Bryson and his irascible childhood friend Katz hiked the Appalachian Trail in the 1990’s, they were 44 years old. In the movie, Bryson is played by Robert Redford, who will be 80 next year, and Katz is played by Nick Nolte, who is 74. Bryson’s wife is played by 56-year-old Emma Thompson, who is supposed to be his contemporary. While some of the characters and incidents are lifted straight from the book, especially the very funny character played by Kristen Schaal, there are also some important changes. But the biggest is the “this is our last chance at a grand adventure” theme, just because the characters are played by septuagenarians.