Fifty-two minutes into An Unfinished Life I looked at my watch for the first of many times. This was about halfway through the movie, which is never a good sign. Wait, let’s start over on a more positive and festive note. An Unfinished Life has solid acting throughout. It has the occasionally funny one liner. I think it would be a decent flick for kids and more mature (over 60) adults.
With all that niceness out of the way I’ve got to ask America a question; what is our fascination with seeing Jennifer Lopez get beaten up? She was abused in Enough, battered in Monster-in-Law and she takes it on the chin early on in An Unfinished Life. She’s officially been typecast as someone likely to get hit in the face. Is this a niche her agent is carving out for her? With Redford in the mix An Unfinished Life sometimes felt like Horse Whisperer 2 but with an abused J-Lo instead of an abused horse.
The plot of An Unfinished Life is of Lopez running from her abusive boyfriend, back to the father (Redford) of the man she was once married to. Redford is none too happy to see her on his ranch because as it turns out, the son is dead due to a car accident that occurred with Lopez behind the wheel. Of course he’s also a salty old man, so tough he doesn’t even name his cats. Their journey is to find comfort in each other, forgive the wounds of the past, and of course face off against the abusive boyfriend form the crux of the movie. Jean (Lopez) also brings her daughter back with her (named “Griff” after her dead daddy), who is Einar’s (Redford) granddaughter. Griff is played capably by Becca Gardner. As I stated before, all the acting is decent, it is the story that fails them.
Which brings us to Morgan Freeman as Mitch Bradley, Einar’s helper around the ranch who was mauled by a bear. He’s pretty obsessed with the bear throughout the film but I’m certain if I were mauled I would be too, so no criticism there. He throws out the occasional pearl of wisdom just like Red did way back in Shawshank Redemption.
My problems with the film are pretty much pacing and content. It moves very slow as it heads toward a resolution that ultimately just isn’t very interesting. An Unfinished Life is too quiet and too simple. I can’t really fully hate it because I respect all of the actors involved but I can say I consider it to be a sub par movie. Lasse Hallstrom was able to deliver a film with quiet grace in Cider House Rules but this effort is simply quiet overall. If you leave out the entertaining part of a movie there really isn’t much left is there?
Early on in their stay at the ranch Griff turns to Jean and says “You have a plan right? We don’t have to stay forever?” It’s a cute moment handled well by both actresses. I just wish someone had asked the director and screenwriter the same questions.