Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Philosophy And Fishing--A Quirky, But Slight, Coming-of Age Story That Lacks RealnessAug. 9 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
Note: Almost as interesting as the film itself is the troubled back story of its creation. David James Duncan's beloved 1983 novel has long been considered a tricky proposition to adapt to film due to the story's internal monologue and metaphorical quest for self-knowledge and enlightenment. The author, himself, fought a legal battle against this interpretation with claims of copyright infringement among other allegations with the case settled in 2008. To date, Duncan claims not to have seen the movie at the advice of friends and family and is certainly no supporter of it. It's an interesting story and, if you have an interest, I'd recommend looking it up.
For the purposes of this review, I do not compare the movie with the book. Each is its own entity and it would be hard to match the complexities of the novel's narrative device in film format. But lacking the depth of the book, the movie ends up being a pleasant enough coming-of-age story. If you loved the book, you will react in one of two ways. You might hate that the movie misses or only superficially deals with the larger philosophical issues. Or you might love the book so much that you forgive the movie's flaws because you relate so specifically to the subject matter.
I have no doubt that certain viewers will be enchanted by the offbeat coming-of-age story "The River Why." Attempting to be earnest and heartfelt, however, the film is a bit too quirky for its own good with stylized and unrealistic dialogue. In most film examples, the quirky quotient is used to make hip and self-congratulatory comedies about urban youths--here it is employed to a decidedly more homespun, but no more authentic, tale. Using fishing as a metaphor for life, "The River Why" benefits tremendously with a likable lead performance by Zach Gilford (Friday Night Lights). However, he doesn't fully overcome the screenplay (complete with ponderous narration) that tries too hard to be eccentric AND fraught with deep meaning and insight. It's an uneasy alliance--one that didn't work for me--but should be pleasant enough for most. If you like whimsical philosophical musings in place of real character insight, this rather lightweight narrative should suffice.
Gilford plays the eldest son of an eccentric fishing family. Dad is a fly fisher (and famous author), mom uses traditional bait--isn't that a wacky mix? Here's an example of the painfully contrived characterizations. His little brother, who is never more than an artificial construct, hates the water. So he wears galoshes and a raincoat all year round and only drinks fruit juice. Quirky stuff, huh? For a rather thin reason, Gilford leaves the family and moves into the woods to be a fishing hermit. However, he learns about life from a pipe smoking intellectual (Dallas Roberts), a beautiful girl (Amber Heard, with no real story of her own), and a rural family of plucky kids. Despite the script that perceives that it is filled with import, it is all rather superficial and expected material. That doesn't mean I hated the movie, it's watchable enough. It just lacks a certain realness to make it memorable in the overcrowded coming-of-age genre.
Part of my reservation about the movie comes from a lack of genuine character development. The film has a terrific cast. William Hurt and Kathleen Quinlan, as the parents, don't have much to do and aren't explored with any depth. Roberts and Heard exist only to teach Gilford meaningful lessons, they have nothing to do outside of his character. William Devane shows up briefly for comic relief. It's all nice. Gilford is such an appealing presence, however, I stuck with the movie. The scenery looks terrific and everything is very pretty. At the end of the day, though, I didn't feel much genuine emotion in this story that was designed to tug at my heartstrings. And yet, as I said, I suspect many people will support this slight and superficial film. KGHarris, 8/11.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
There are three plots that focus on fishingJan. 8 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
There are three main plots in this film focusing on fishing. First, the estrangement of a young man and his two parents. He is sick of living at home with his frequently over-pompous father who is hiding a secret that he never really caught the fish that he wrote about in his best seller book and his mother who is a somewhat boyish tomboy. The parents love one another but have contrary personalities are frequently bickering. Second, while both parents are interested in fishing, the young man wants to go off and fish on his own in his own way. He also needs to find himself. He meets some interesting characters, including a philosopher, a writer, and a beautiful highly spirited girl. Each helps him in different ways. Third, fishing. We see how all of the people love fishing, each in his or her own way, and devote their lives to it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A quiet, laid-back kind of movie - much like the act of fishingJan. 31 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a quiet, lazy, laid-back kind of film (kind of like the act of fishing) - so it's not for everybody, but I enjoyed it. (Didn't have to swat any flies, touch, smell, clean or eat any fish but still felt some peace and enjoyment of fishing. Cool) Am totally looking forward to reading the book now (usually the book is 10x better than the movie, as it doesn't have to finish in a certain time frame).
Some great scenery, peacefulness of fishing/nature, quirky likable characters, an awkward/interesting romance and some interesting philosophy thrown in. I will probably watch it a few times. Good for when in a quiet, contemplative mood...like sittin on the porch on a lazy day, in no hurry and someone you are comfortable with sits and enjoys it with you.
Kathleen Quinlain and William Hurt's characters add nothing to the movie - in fact the William Hurt character's accent and way of speaking basically annoyed me. So, if you think you'll watch the movie just because you enjoy either of those actors - you might be disappointed. Besides, they're small parts.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Blu-ray (3.5 stars): A coming-of-age storyline that is about self-discovery and one's passion about fishing.Dec 16 2011
Dennis A. Amith
- Published on Amazon.com
"The River Why" is a classic novel from 1983 by David James Duncan and a novel that is loved by those who are passionate about fishing.
The coming-of-age story has inspired many and one of those who were inspired by the novel was Thomas A. Cohen, who purchased the filmmaking rights of the novel back in 1984 and together with wife, producer Kristi Denton Cohen, the two have been active in trying to raise the money to create a film. In fact, when the two were married, in their vows were words inspired by the novel.
And although it took more than 25-years, the Cohen's were able to pull of a film that was shot in 2008 and now the film is now available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Image Entertainment.
"The River Why" is presented i 1080p High Definition widescreen (2:35:1 aspect ratio). For the most part, "The River Why" definitely showcases the beauty of shooting in a river location and seeing the beautiful surroundings of its natural scenery. During outdoor moments, when the light is good, the picture quality is very good. You can see the detail and scales or spots on the fish and if anything, the natural location looks very good on Blu-ray.
There are some darker moments during the film, in fact, one conversation scene when Gus meets a guy named Titus, you expect to see some lighting on the two characters but I guess the film was capturing the realness as there are no street lights near the river and things are going to be very dark inside the car. So, I understand capturing that realism, but at the same time, for a film, that scene was just too dark that I found myself trying to adjust the brightness to see if it was my television or if it was intentional.
But for the most part, picture quality is very good for the film. I didn't notice any artifacts or banding, edge enhancement or anything. And during those darker moments, black levels were nice and deep.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
"The River Why" is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. While the film is more dialogue-driven through the center and front channels, you do get a bit of music via acoustic guitar coming through the surround channels. In fact, there are some scenes where the river (and the bickering of Gus' parents) are quite effective when it comes through those surround channels. I was expecting crickets or birds chirping a lot but for the most part, dialogue is crystal clear, as with the music of the film. But for a film like this, the lossless soundtrack was quite appropriate. !
Subtitles are presented in English SDH and Spanish.
"The River Why" comes with the following special feature:
Interviews - (38:58) Featuring interviews with the main talent of the film and also producers Thomas A. Cohen and Kristi Denton Cohen and also director Matthew Leutwyler. Trailer - Featuring the original theatrical trailer for the film.
"The River Why" is an intriguing coming-of-age film. One of the key differences that this film has over other films is that it deals with fishing.
You don't really run across many films that deal with fishing, especially a life that revolves around it, but "The River Why" is a film that embodies ones passion for fishing, may it be for sport or just one's love of nature or living in nature.
The film is nothing negative as it deals with one man's perspective of life. Gus grew up in a family that thrived on fishing and it has become a big part of the family's life. So, naturally, Gus is the same way. He loves fishing, he feels that his success of catching fish is because he understands them.
It's a life that he has embraced but being a young man, is it all he needs in life? Of course, when he falls for the beautiful Eddy and seeing a woman that enjoys nature as much as he does, his perspective towards life starts to change a bit as he starts to see how much he misses family and how fishing may not be everything as he once thought.
"The River Why" is a journey of self-discovery and while I have never read the book, I have read that because of the internal monologue of the book through the character of Gus, you're not going to have everything in the book featured in the film. That is a given as this tends to happen to a lot of film adaptations from a novel. In the special feature and also in the film, the word "philosophical" is used quite a bit. And I can imagine that David James Duncan's novel does a lot in touching upon the philosophy of one's coming-of-age with one living near the River Why and fishing every day and night.
I can only go by what I see in the film and for me, I feel that Zach Gilford is a really good up-and-coming actor who showed a lot of that hometown style of acting through the TV series "Friday Night Lights" and Amber Heard definitely showed her hometown style compared to her previous roles in "Zombieland" and "Drive Angry". If anything, both talents were able to adapt to their surroundings and made their characters quite believable. While the film has two solid talents with William Hurt and Kathleen Quinlan, their roles were quite smaller than one may have hoped.
If anything, this film is pretty much about Gus and him learning through living alone along the river and the people he encounters, primarily Titus (played by Dallas Roberts) and him falling for Eddy. While the film is a coming-of-age film, I don't know how much of the book touches upon the love story between Gus and Eddy but while I have heard the book is quite deep, possibly the film adaptation was made more accessible to viewers.
The Blu-ray really does showcase the beautiful wilderness of Oregon and while my fishing years were mainly back when I was a child and going often with my grandfather, I have to admit that watching this film made me want to try fishing in a river. In fact, I found the film to beautiful and while not the deepest coming-of-age film out there, I felt it was charming and also pretty cool! And also got me interested in wanting to read Duncan's novel.
Overall, "The River Why" was an enjoyable, heartwarming film that takes a subject of fishing and definitely makes it appealing to the viewer. As a coming-of-age film, I felt the casting of Zach Gilford and Amber Heard were very good choices and for the most part, I enjoyed this film and its journey of self-discovery quite a bit.
"The River Why" is a film that looks beautiful on Blu-ray and a film that is entertaining and worth recommending!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Good Movie for Lovers of NatureFeb. 29 2012
G. S. Thompson
- Published on Amazon.com
This independent film has some of the most beautiful scenes presented in a movie in some time. I love to fish, hike, and be outdoors and this film filled my soul with warmth. If you're expecting a blockbuster this isn't the film for you, and if you're a huge fan of the book this book may be difficult for you as it doesn't (can't) include all the philosophy found in the amazing book. Books and movies are different creatures so don't watch it expecting the same thing, but this film is powerful and can be enjoyed by even the pickiest fly fishing gurus and bookworms. This is a beautiful film that does a wonderful job telling a coming of age story.