An Unfinished Life

It's not just that Jennifer Lopez looks lost and out of her league acting with Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman. That's to be expected. It's the drag-ass solemnity of this turgid family drama that makes you crazy. Redford plays Einar Gilkyson, a Wyoming farmer who's been drinking hard since his son was killed in a car crash a dozen years back. He blames his daughter-in-law Jean (Lopez), who was driving. Einar has exiled Jean from his life. Now here she is on his farm with her daughter Griff (Becca Gardner), 11. Jean needs protection from her abusive boyfriend (Damian Lewis). Ranch hand Mitch (Freeman) encourages Einar to heal old wounds for the girl's sake. Mitch is pretty bruised himself, from a bear attack — the first of the film's many outbreaks of symbolism. Do you think the bear is going to return? Do you think Einar will see his son again in Griff's eyes? Will every trite emotional trick work its way out of Mark Spragg's novel and into the film version, written by Spragg and his wife, Virginia? Will director Lasse Hallstrom (remember his enervating Shipping News? This is worse) show no shame in jerking tears and the audience's chain? Redford and Freeman have a relaxed rapport — watch their expressions when Griff asks them if they're gay — but the script keeps giving them unspeakable lines to utter. You want to scream to make the torture stop.

From The Archives Issue 106: April 13, 1972
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