Cinematical's Kim Voynar described it as "one of the most polarizing films playing at Telluride this year ... even as we feel anger at Chris for hurting his family, or frustration at his choices, or fear for what will happen to him, a part of us has to admire his courage in taking a leap that most of us would never be able to take." James Rocchi had strong feelings as well: "As the credits roll at the close of Into the Wild, you don't feel like you've celebrated a life spent on the road less traveled; you feel like you've just witnessed a slow-motion suicide."
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was the other major limited release; it performed quite respectably with a per-screen average of $29,460 at five locations. I thought the film was glacially paced, incredibly gorgeous visually, and richly detailed in period authenticity and character. James Rocchi wrote: "Anyone looking for beauty and transcendence and a meditation on the West starring a terrific ensemble will be more than rewarded." Jeffrey M. Anderson was even more impressed: "Certainly one of the year's best films, and the best Western to come across the range since Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992) and Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man (1996)."
With such fierce, big name competition, other indie films opening this weekend fared less successfully. Larry Fessenden's environmentally-themed thriller The Last Winter played at two theaters for a $4,150 per-screen average, while Ray McKinnon's comedy Randy and the Mob brought in an estimated $3,020 at each of five locations. Ann Hu's drama Beauty Remains snagged just $1,310 per-screen at two screens.