Following the long-belated releases of The Great Raid, Secuestro Express, and The Warrior, Miramax’s shelf-cleaning project continues with Lasse Hallström’s dust-collecting An Unfinished Life, a prototypical WE channel mushfest that instantly announces its soft, syrupy sensitivity with an opening credit sequence in which the title is displayed in all lower-case letters while somber country music plays over Robert Redford quietly and meticulously tending to his early morning ranch routine. Crotchety ol’ cowpoke Einer Gilkyson (Redford) cares for sagacious hetero life-partner Mitch Bradley (Morgan Freeman)—the victim of a vicious bear attack that left him partially crippled and in need of regular gluteus maximus morphine shots—on his Wyoming ranch. Einer has yet to recover from his son Griff’s death years earlier, yet he’s forced to confront past demons when his daughter-in-law Jean (Jennifer Lopez) suddenly arrives with his granddaughter Griff (Becca Gardner) seeking shelter from an abusive boyfriend (Damian Lewis). From Hallström’s dewy, postcard-pastoral vision of the American West and preference for smudging every other scene with cloying, mournful music to the script’s conveniently tidy confrontation of guilt and grief, the film bears a painful brand of manipulative phoniness. Mitch’s physical scars are no different than Einer and Jean’s emotional ones, making Mitch’s compassionate interest in the bear that nearly killed him an act of progressive forgiveness that will eventually be passed down to the grudge-holding Einer, who blames Jean for his son’s demise. Whereas this touchy-feely male maturation storyline at least affords the still-commanding Redford the opportunity to give his grizzled Jeremiah Johnson routine a workout, Jean’s tacked-on flee from victimhood—functioning mainly as a device to give the increasingly sensitive Einer a means of showing his protective affection for her and her daughter—simply proves that Enough apparently wasn’t quite enough simplistic battered-female-strikes-back baloney for J. Lo. In the film’s fantasyland frontier, everyone gets to heal by pardoning past sins, but Hallström’s sloppy, spurious Hallmark-ready symbolism, as well as his squandering of the devilishly charming Josh Lucas as Jean’s new sheriff boy-toy, is more or less inexcusable. And if Unfinished Life is correct in surmising that all that remains of the once-rugged Wild West are platonic oil rubdowns between creaky old cowboys in man-love, then perhaps the region’s transformation into just another strip mall-lined suburbia is something to be celebrated.
- Lasse Hallström
- Mark Spragg, Virginia Korus Spragg
- Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, Morgan Freeman, Josh Lucas, Damian Lewis, Becca Gardner, Camryn Manheim
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