5 items from 2005
Despite solid, albeit constrained, performances from Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, Morgan Freeman and adolescent newcomer Becca Gardner, "An Unfinished Life" all too accurately lives up to its title. The film never realizes its dramatic potential, choosing to take predictable story paths with obvious characters. Indeed, the characters all but wear signs that sum up their essence: Bitter Old Cowboy, Abused Woman, Noble Wise Friend, Neglected Child. The story, for all its good intentions, never digs deep into their souls.
"An Unfinished Life", made by the usually reliable Lasse Hallstrom two years ago, is among many films caught up in Miramax's unfortunate change-of-business sale as the one-time indie darling is clearing its shelves in a troubling manner. The cast should mean a solid opening weekend, but without an enthusiastic marketing campaign, the film is not likely to dwell long in theaters.
In the end, even enthusiastic marketing probably won't save the stale story. For one thing, a traffic accident is a hard thing on which to hang a drama about nearly a lifetime's worth of regret, recrimination and sorrow. Lopez's Jean Gilkyson was driving a car that flipped over and killed her young husband many years earlier. Her father-in-law, Redford's Einar Gilkyson, still blames and detests her as if she were guilty of premeditated murder. Now the two are forced back together against their wishes.
Fleeing an abusive relationship with her boyfriend (a surly, two-dimensional Damian Lewis), Jean has little money and nowhere to go. So she shows up at Einar's gone-to-seed Wyoming ranch with his granddaughter, Griff (Gardner). The kicker is, she never told Einar he had a granddaughter.
The only person glad to see the two is Freeman's Mitch Bradley, Einar's hired hand and best friend for 40 years. He now needs a daily shot of morphine to keep going after being mauled by a grizzly bear. He is virtually the only person left in Einar's life following Einar's battle with the bottle.
The bear (Bart the Bear II) also shows up at the ranch, but Sheriff Crane Curtis (Josh Lucas) captures it before Einar can kill it. Strangely, Mitch insists that Einar feed the captive animal and later asks him to free it. So you get it? One forgives, the other doesn't. And boy, does that grizzly become one lumbering symbolic bear before the movie is done.
All plot developments are predictable. The granddaughter softens up the irascible cowboy. Jean hooks up with the handsome sheriff, but her daughter disapproves. Her boyfriend tracks her down and issues threats. Granddad gets to demonstrate that this young punk is no match for his aging macho. (He warms up by beating up a couple of drunks who harass Camryn Manheim's Nina in a coffee shop.)
The movie's best moments come in the older actors' interaction with young Gardner. The actors seem to genuinely relax in their scenes with her. Otherwise, the roles hem everyone in, forcing each to hit the same notes again and again.
Redford mumbles under his breath much of the time, playing the grumpy, mean old man to the hilt without ever suggesting what kind of a man he once was. On the other hand, Lopez could have used a dose of true grit as she looks too glamorous for her surroundings. Freeman, we now know, used this role to prepare for Scrap-Iron Dupris in "Million Dollar Baby". (At times, the Redford-Freeman old-codger quarrels echo those between Freeman and Clint Eastwood in "Baby".)
British Columbia substitutes nicely for Wyoming, as Oliver Stapleton's appreciative cinematography, David Gropman's Western design and Christopher Young's spare musical score luxuriate in those wide-open spaces.
AN UNFINISHED LIFE
Miramax and Revolution Studios present in association with Initial Entertainment Group a Ladd Co. production
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Screenwriters: Mark Spragg, Virginia Korus Spragg
Producers: Leslie Holleran, Kellian Ladd, Alan Ladd Jr.
Executive producers: Joe Roth
Director of photography: Oliver Stapleton
Production designer: David Gropman
Music: Deborah Lurie
Costumes: Tish Monaghan
Editor: Andrew Mondshein
Einar Gilkyson: Robert Redford
Jean: Jennifer Lopez
Mitch Bradley: Morgan Freeman
Crane: Josh Lucas
Nina: Camryn Manheim
Gary: Damian Lewis
Griff: Becca Gardner
MPAA rating PG-13
Running time -- 108 minutes »
In a major casting coup for the WB Network, Melanie Griffith is set to star in the network's untitled Kohan-Mutchnick comedy pilot. Meanwhile, Fred Willard has been tapped to co-star in NBC's comedy pilot The Dennis, and Committed star Josh Cooke has landed one of the leads in David Kohan and Max Mutchnick's other comedy pilot, Four Kings for NBC. The untitled Kohan-Mutchnick project at the WB, from Warner Bros. TV, revolves around two fraternal twin sisters (Sara Gilbert, Molly Stanton) who have nothing in common. Griffith will play the young women's mother whose marriage is on the rocks. The WB has attracted a lot of big-name talent this pilot season. In addition to Griffith, Rebecca Romijn, Jane Leeves, Anne Heche, Don Johnson and Camryn Manheim are also toplining projects for the network. Griffith, an Oscar nominee and a Golden Globe winner for her role in Working Girl, made a successful Broadway debut as merry murderess Roxie Hart in the 2003 revival of Chicago. She next stars in CBS' original movie Heartless, which is inspired by real events. Griffith is repped by WMA, Untitled Entertainment and attorney George Hayum. »
Lauren Holly rounds out the cast of the WB Network's untitled Camryn Manheim comedy pilot, radio personality Phil Hendrie has joined NBC's comedy pilot Filmore Middle, Paula Marshall has been tapped to co-star in CBS' untitled Lloyd-Keenan comedy pilot, and Kimberly Elise has been added to the cast of CBS' drama pilot American Crime. The untitled Lloyd-Keenan project revolves around a family of single doctors. Marshall will play one of the doctors, the sister of the lead character (Christopher Gorham). Stockard Channing and Henry Winkler previously were cast as their recently divorced parents. Last season, Marshall starred in another CBS pilot, the drama Cooking Lessons. The actress, who most recently appeared in a multiepisode arc on UPN's Veronica Mars, is repped by Innovative Artists. »
Claire Forlani has been tapped to star opposite John Leguizamo in CBS' untitled Diamond-Weisman drama pilot, with Craig Bierko and Michael Pena also cast in the project. In other pilot casting news, Heather Paige Kent is set to star opposite Camryn Manheim in the WB Network's untitled Ranberg/Flett-Giordano comedy, John Michael Higgins has joined CBS' untitled Susie Essman comedy and Reid Scott has been cast as one of the leads in CBS' untitled Marsh McCall comedy. Meanwhile, Emily Rutherfurd is set to co-star opposite Julia Louis-Dreyfus in CBS' comedy Old Christine, Luis Avalos has been added to NBC's comedy Early Bird and Desmond Harrington, Allison Quinn and Jerry Lambert have been cast in ABC's untitled Goss-Holly comedy. »
Samuel Goldwyn Films said Monday that it has acquired North American rights to Randall Miller's Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School. The film, which premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival, stars Robert Carlyle, Marisa Tomei, John Goodman, Mary Steenburgen, Sean Astin, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny DeVito. Samuel Goldwyn Films will release the film in September. Based on a short film created 15 years ago by Miller and wife Jody Savin, Dancing centers on a widowed man's life that is turned upside down when he embarks on a journey to find a dying man's long-lost love. The film also stars David Paymer, Adam Arkin, Sonia Braga, Ernie Hudson, Miguel Sandoval, Elden Henson and Camryn Manheim. It was produced by Miller, Savin, Morris Ruskin and Eileen Craft. Executive producers are Art Klein, Ronald Savin, Eduardo Castro, Carlos Gidi, Kevin Reidy, Lon Bender and Jeffrey Lampert. Co-producers are Randi Hiller and Sarah Finn. The deal was brokered by Samuel Goldwyn Films president Meyer Gottleib and head of acquisitions Peter Goldwyn. CAA and Shoreline Entertainment brokered on behalf of the filmmakers. »
5 items from 2005
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