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Cinema Junkie by Beth Accomando

Into the Wild on DVD


Emile Hirsch as Christopher McCandless in Into the Wild (Paramount Vantage)

Paramount Vantage delayed the DVD release of Into the Wild from February 12 to March I1 probably in the hopes of being able to add a sticker saying "with Oscar-winner Hal Holbrook." But old Hollywood vets just aren't winning votes any more, and Into the Wild failed to nab gold in either of its Oscar bids. So in hindsight, a DVD release before the awards might have generated more interest than having the DVD arrive after the film has become an official loser. The film arrived on DVD yesterday and since I missed reviewing Into the Wild when it opened in theaters, I thought I'd catch up with it now.

In January of 1993, author and mountaineer Jon Krakauer wrote an article entitled "Death of an Innocent" for Outsider Magazine. The article was about Christopher Johnson McCandless, a young man from an affluent East Coast family. He graduated with honors from Emory University, gave away his entire savings to charity, hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mount McKinley with tragic results. The article generated more mail than any other article in the magazine's history. Some admired McCandless' idealism and independent spirit; others thought him a fool or an arrogant idiot. The article proved to be just the beginning of Krakauer's obsessive quest to discover more about McCandless.

April 06, 2008 at 05:25 AM
Your analysis is right on the money, Ms. Accomando. It was an act of incredible selfishness on the young man's part to punish his parents in that fashion. As for the parents, they knew that this film was going to portray them in the harshest possible light, and went along with it anyway. No one can know for sure why they did so, but I suspect that guilt is still driving them, and that being portrayed as particularly brittle and unloving satisfies some continuing need to scourge themselves. As a parent, I know all too well how easy it is to feel guilty for our children's misbehavior, as if it is all our fault. Down that path, though, lies the spoiled and enabled child who grows up to be an unsuccesful adult. Children must accept some responsibility for their own lives, even if their parents are as portrayed in this film, or they risk becoming unable to ever accept responsibility for their own behavior. You can only blame upbringing for so much. I too grew a little weary of Chris McCandless' preachy attitude and Penn's glamorization of what was at its heart an immature and fatal decision, one of many immature decisions Chris made on his two year oddysey. Chris did not come off quite so much the saint in Krakauer's book, despite Krakauer's glowing statements about him on Oprah.


Beth Accomando
April 07, 2008 at 05:53 AM
John, Thanks for your comments and insights. I think the film could have been much better if it offered a more balanced and critical portrait of McCandless.