Redford, Freeman, child actress shine in 'An Unfinished Life'

Critics' Picks : New Dvds

April 09, 2006|By ROB HIAASEN

AN UNFINISHED LIFE / / Miramax / $29.95

A bitter dad. A hot mom. A plucky kid. A wise friend. A bad boyfriend. A good cop.

And a 500-pound bear.

Introducing the cast of An Unfinished Life, director Lasse Hallstrom's story of family and forgiveness set on a Wyoming ranch. It stars Robert Redford -- finally looking his age -- and Morgan Freeman, who would be worth watching if he were just filling up his car. Retired rancher Einar Gilkyson (Redford) is still grieving the death of his son when his daughter-in-law (Jennifer Lopez) appears, broke and battered by an ex-boyfriend. Einar, who blames her for his son's death in a car accident, makes it clear he doesn't want her or her daughter Griff.

Einar knows something about blame. He blames himself for the horrific mauling of his friend Mitch (Freeman) by a grizzly, which reappears on the ranch and serves as the movie's lumbering, growling metaphor. Einar cares for the crippled Mitch, who needs help shaving and with daily insulin shots -- the only question is which side of his backside. In a pre-Brokeback Mountain moment, the young Griff asks the men at lunch, "You guys are gay, right?" It's the only time Redford's character bursts out laughing.

Even when you see the moments coming, An Unfinished Life can still deliver, thanks in large part to Redford pulling a sort of Clint Eastwood to Freeman's character. They earn their moments, such as when Mitch asks Einar to bury him next to his son's grave. "Where the hell else you think I'd bury you?" Einar asks if the dead think about the living. "I think they forgive us our sins," Mitch says. "I even think it's easy for them."

Lopez, often seen walking away in jeans, appears to handle drama just fine. And while one could compare any child actress to Dakota Fanning, Becca Gardner's Griff achieves her own grit and vulnerability. Of course, she eventually wins Einar's heart, and we care.

In the end, Mitch stares down his bear -- don't we all wrestle our own bears? -- and all in the family is forgiven. "They call them accidents because it's nobody's fault," Mitch tells Einar. Movie lines, impossible to improve on here, are no less powerful in the hands of a good movie.

Special features

Feature commentary; The Making of 'An Unfinished Life'; Training Bart the Bear; Still Gallery. "Special features" have devalued the word special, yet hearing Morgan Freeman say anything extra is special. Mercifully, no deleted scenes were included.

.......................

[ROB HIAASEN]

.......................

rob.hiaasen@baltsun.com

ALSO ANTICIPATED

THE BOB NEWHART SHOW: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON / / FOX / $29.95

"Hi, Bob."

For fans of the "Hi, Bob" drinking game, Dr. Robert Hartley himself, or Suzanne Pleshette herself, the third season of "The Bob Newhart Show" is out on DVD. Sandwiched among CBS's Saturday night blockbuster lineup, Newhart's quiet comedy ran from 1972-1978. All twenty-four episodes are included and the DVD features the original cast: Newhart, Pleshette, Bill Daily as neighbor Howard Borden, Peter Bonerz as Bob's friend, Dr. Jerry Robinson, and Marcia Wallace as the receptionist Carol. Not to mention Jack Riley as Elliot Carlin, Bob's neurotic and hostile patient.

Season Three highlights include the episode, "My Business is Shrinking," where Bob loses his confidence (and patients) before he finally takes Emily's advice and goes to a psychologist himself. The season wraps with a trilogy: "Bob Hits the Ceiling," "Emily Hits the Ceiling," and "The Ceiling Hits Bob," in which Bob attempts to conduct his therapy sessions at home because his office ceiling collapsed.

Trivia question: How many times did someone say "Hi, Bob" throughout the series? (256, with Howard Borden accounting for 118 times)

.......................

[ROB HIAASEN]

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.