The River Wild
More like the Budget Wild; at $40 million its
the most expensive river trip in the world. Universal Films is footing the bill in order
to present the first major motion picture that revolves exclusively around a whitewater
raft trip. The trip journeys through a fictitious river gorge in Montana called the River
Wild, (the Kootenai River in Montana and the Rogue River in Oregon.)
The River Wild, huh? It sounds like a Disneyland ride, the very image we
guides despise, portraying river trips down pristine, free-flowing rivers. Luckily for the
movie, a behind-the-scenes crew, like Brian Dierker, Scotty Davis, Jon Wasson, and Steve
Jones, have been crucial players in adding authenticity to an otherwise typical
Hollywood screenplay. Because of a dynamic assemblage of river and climbing experts,
excellent acting, and an open-minded director (Curtis Hanson), the movie has the makings
for a suspenseful, action-adventure story that attempts to draw the audience into what
river running is all about.
The story revolves around a family on their river vacation that takes a turn
when circumstances careen out of their control. Meryl Streep plays Gail, a boatman,
mother, wife, and dog-lover who is the heroine. After years of living in Boston and
feeling lost in her marriage to Tom (David Strathairn), a geeky architect, she attempts to
save her marriage by organizing a family rafting trip in honor of her sons birthday.
The whole family, including the dog, journeys down the river Gail guided on long ago.
Emotional tensions fly as Tom finds he resents the river and everything it represents. It
is Gails past, her core, and the complete anathema to the ordered, meticulous Tom.
Several days into the trip the action really picks up when they encounter the BAD GUYS
(Kevin Bacon and John C. Reilly). This is where the family vacation gets weird and
Hollywood steps in. Theres hairy whitewater running, cliff scaling, chase scenes,
emotional family bonding, and yes, even bloodshed, Hollywood style.
So, what does all this have to do with us?
Despite crazy Hollywood antics, this river movie is timely. Boatmen from all
around the country are congregated to advocate environmental activism in saving rivers to
Hollywood elitists. Meryl Streep, who pulls in some $30 K a day for rowing and acting,
seems to deeply identify with our love of rivers and our desire to protect them for the
future. Thanks to Brian and Scotty, she and others are fully aware of GCRG and the
on-going research in the Canyon. They will no doubt be players in the future, not only for
Grand Canyon, but for rivers all over the world.