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With: Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Lopez, Josh Lucas, Damian Lewis, Becca Gardner, Camryn Manheim
Written by: Mark Spragg, Virginia Korus Spragg
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence including domestic abuse, and language
Running Time: 107
Date: 08/19/2005

An Unfinished Life (2005)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Ranch Dressing

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Swedish-born director Lasse Hallström yawns out another awards contender with An Unfinished Life, a film in which actors get to emote to the strains of violin and piano music. Fortunately, screenwriters Mark Spragg and Virginia Korus Spragg have written two of the lead characters as distant, restrained old-timers, and so Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman get to call up their best bag of tricks to give these characters inner life. Even though Freeman's ancient, symbiotic relationship was already used to similar effect with Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby, it works again here. Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn't know what it wants to be. Watching Redford, as Wyoming rancher Einar Gilkyson, and Freeman as the crippled Mitch, would have made an interesting movie, but Hallström ( The Cider House Rules, Chocolat, The Shipping News) and the writers keep throwing in what screenwriting seminars call "conflict." The bear that mauled Mitch is on the loose, Einar can't quite deal with the death of his son, and his daughter-in-law Jean (Jennifer Lopez) has just turned up with her daughter (Becca Gardner) on the run from a mean ex-boyfriend (Damian Lewis), and needing a place to stay. The filmmakers play out these so-called dramatic turns with the most calculated boredom, elevating each to mythic status to try and squeeze some life from them. But it's the little touches, like watching the characters work the ranch or going to the local cafe, that makes the film interesting. A more skilled filmmaker would have realized that.

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