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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Redford masterfully directed and stared in this deeply psychological
portrayal of wounds and healing. He would have had to explain all the
nuances to the actors because so much is accomplished without words.
Tom, the Horse Whisperer, gifted in the art of re-bonding, has to
decide whether he can bring healing to only the horse (all that he is
asked to do) or extend his therapeutic touch to the three humans as
well. How does he achieve emotional mending for each member? By careful
listening and observation, he gleans the signals until he knows the
interlinking dynamics between all the wounded members. You can do the
same if you practice the skill to understand the internal driving
Tom knows the pain of lost love and is magnetically drawn to the mother. But not until the father arrived could he know how his daughter loved him or that he cared for "his girls." I believe Tom made a conscious decision to stop his bonding with the mother. The moment of decision was watching the bedroom light go out in "his creek house across the meadow" when the dad came to visit. He early achieved healing for the horse but he knew he could never achieve wholeness for the daughter if he wounded her again by replacing her father.
He faced the excruciating challenge of healing the mother by opening her up to new bonding with her husband. After several touching moments, he did that finally at the dance by drawing her into his love then leaving her "a soft place to fall" into her husband's love again. He executed a delicate, deliberate maneuver so she didn't stay bonded to him marvelously done without rejecting her). He did that by leaving the dance (when he could have driven a wedge between her and her husband right then.) A man of few words, he had kept her back to her husband drinking at the dance, covertly expressed his love, then left before he damaged their bonding. The sacrifice of true love!
He had always spoken so honestly and clearly to each one. In the barn, he didn't soften the reality of how she would hurt her husband and daughter if she chose him. He signaled to her what she should do by saying "your lovethat I will always have with me." And by saying "I wanted to be here when you left." He taught her the value of relationships above careers. He was refreshingly grounded in knowing who he was. He also understood that you could deeply love someone and it not be right to marry them.
I can't understand why some people commented so negatively about this
film. Clearly some love vanilla ice cream and some love chocolate and
there is no acceptable argument that one is "better" than another.
However, I expect the negative reviews come from people who think
"Snatch" and "Grindhouse" are great movies. (Not a surprise, IMDb
people rated these two pieces of crap amazingly high.)
The "Horse Whisperer" has great acting, from the supporting cast to the stars and, by the way, it is the best thing Johansson has ever done, great cinematography, and four excellent story lines, the love interest between Thomas and Redford, and the strained relationship between the career mother and her daughter, the nobility and courage of the horse (as great as the equines in Hidalgo and the Black Stallion) and lastly, the pain and trauma of a young teenager losing a limb.
I also don't understand those why one compares a film with a book. Who cares? I read more fiction than most and enjoy it immensely , however, they are different media and I see no value in comparing the two. This movie stands on its own merits, whether the book was better (or worse) should be irrelevant.
Although Redford is 24 years older in reality and probably 10 years older in the story, the chemistry is clearly there. Those used to the naked buttocks, the groaning and the spit swapping that passes for romance in the films of the last 30 years may not be able to see the romance, but only the comatose would not feel the heat in the scene where Redford and Thomas are dancing close.
The dynamics of Thomas and Scarlet are also extremely well done. It may sometimes appear a bit formula, but I know it is quite real.
Lastly, I think this is one of the greatest romances of its era. I can't think of one better.
This movie, for some reason brings me to tears each and every time I watch it. Overall the action moves quite slowly, but I think that is its charm. I am a long haul professional driver and recognize many of the locations in the show as so far as Montana goes. The damage to the horse, and subsequent recovery is amazing to say the least. Watching the players interact is a dream, mostly because I am such a huge Redford fan. The way he moves the movie through its paces is excellent, with one sub-plot running smoothly into and out of another. A bit of a downer - my wife didn't care for it! She's a big horse fan and had a lot of difficulty with the accident scene.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is one unavoidable, minor spoiler herein, but once you read this
"review," you may think it belongs more in the trivia section. This is
not the one to read to learn about the plot.
An inveterate Robert Redford fan, Mother adopted this as one of her favorite movies when we watched it together years ago on one of her visits. Since she keeps mentioning it from time to time, I slapped on the DVD today to let her watch it again while I intended to take care of other business. The darn thing is so mesmerizing, however, I couldn't stop watching.
The first time I saw this, I might have given it an 8, or maybe even a 9. It was simply a very good movie. Once seen, its story becomes known, however, and a second viewing allows one to focus more acutely on the details. Few directors are so adept at getting his actors to portray the subtleties of human emotions, sans dialog, as Robert Redford (cf. "Ordinary People," etc.). The interplay and facial expressions are so good and appropriate, it makes you want to cry. No fake emotions here.
Before beginning the DVD, I showed Mother Kate Bosworth's photo on the cover of the current (July, 2006) issue of W magazine, the one with her fashion spread and interview inside, saying, "Remember the girl who dies at the beginning of the movie? This is what she's grown up into. She just opened as Lois Lane a couple weeks ago in 'Superman Returns'." After the movie started, I immediately recognized the girl at the heart of the story and exclaimed, "That's Scarlett Johansson!...Both girls are big stars now." Having forgotten these "unknown" child actors had appeared in this movie, I immediately wondered about the relative casting, how the decision was made on which actress got which part, until research revealed that this was Bosworth's first film, while Johansson was a four-year "veteran" at the time.
Having already extolled Redford's skills as a director, let me go on just a bit about his acting herein. Superb, simply superb. No more or less, however, than that of his co-star, Kristen Scott Thomas, and the rest of the cast. A fine job all around.
At 169 minutes, this is a relatively long movie, but there are no fillers, and no scene is wasted. Redford's scenes with the horse, and the people surrounding the horse (i.e., the child and the mother) are simply amazing. One can but wonder about his life journey from a wild child speeding down the streets of New York City in the middle of the night to catch the green lights, to his "retreat to the wilds" of Utah which allowed him to portray a taciturn Montanan with a talent for taming horses.
The way I've prattled on here, you'd think I was trying to use up some cell phone minutes. Although this may be my worst-written, rambling review to date on IMDb, that doesn't diminish the value of this movie. Highly recommended.
I shall not give away the movie, but I think maybe it would be helpful for
the reader to know what to look for. An Important note: I'm really tired of
the two words functional and dysfunctional, but they are the politically and
apparently medically correct terms that apply to the description below. Not
to mention the word family, which is over used, but for which there is
simply no substitute.
The surface story is about a thirteen year old girl, Grace [Scarlette Johansson, who was thirteen when the movie was made] and her horse, Pilgrim, who are in an awful, tragic accident, leaving both the girl and the horse severely injured and traumatized. The girl's mother finds a "horse whisperer," Tom Booker [Robert Redford], a man who knows instinctively how to "help horses with people problems." That's the up front and surface story.
Mixed into this story is a sort of on and off and on again love story between the married and very successful mother, Annie MacLean [Kristin Scott Thomas], and Tom Booker [Redford], and how they try and relate and resolve a relationship as the movie progresses.
The underlying and real theme of the movie is a truly beautifully told story about two families, the MacLeans and the Bookers; one a very functional, close knit, caring and loving family and the other, a dysfunctional divided and out of balance family who barely exist in the confines of an apparently very successful, by New York City standards, family, but who under the facade only exist together and don't really know how to be a family. Gradually, as the two families mix, the dysfunctional family, so trapped in their careers and unsuccessful relationships, begin the long journey toward being a caring and decisionally loving family. It's in this almost hidden story of the two families that the true purpose of the motion picture, the real point of the movie comes through.
I saw the horse, girl, "horse whisperer" story the first time I watched the movie. The second and third time I watched it, I saw the wavering love story, but it was the fourth time I watched it that I finally saw the true story that the producer and director, and star, Robert Redford, wanted to tell about the journeys people are given a chance to make.
This is both an important and rare gym of a motion picture that truly has something to say to our culture. I highly recommend it.
While of course he'll always be remembered for his remarkable work as
an actor and as the mind behind the Sundance Film Festival, Robert
Redford has also slowly build up a solid reputation as a very good
director despite his somewhat limited output (only 6 films in 20
years). Ever since his debut in 1980 with the highly successful
"Ordinary People", Redford has demonstrated a natural talent at
directing actors, as well as a good eye when choosing collaborators for
his projects; two important skills that have earned him awards and
recognition through the years. In his fifth film as a director, 1998's
"The Horse Whisperer", Redford not only directs, but for the first time
in his directorial career, he also plays one of the main characters in
his movie. In "The Horse Whisperer" Redford is once again back in his
element, as this is also the story of a troubled family, however, small
problems arise that sadly diminish the power of the film.
Loosely based on Nick Evans's novel of the same name, "The Horse Whisperer" is the story of Annie MacLean (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her daughter Grace MacLean (Scarlett Johansson), who travel to Montana looking for the famous horse healer Tom Booker (Robert Redford), in order to ask him to cure their horse Pilgrim. The problem is that on a cold winter day, Grace and her best friend Judith (Kate Bosworth) were riding their horses when a terrible accident happened: a truck hit them, instantly killing Judith, and tragically hurting Grace and Pilgrim. Both horribly injured, horse and rider are taken to the Horse Whisperer hoping to recover not only their health, but also the will to live. Not only Grace and Pilgrim will try to find peace in the West, but Annie too will discover a new way of seeing life under the care of the Horse Whisperer.
Written by Eric Roth and Richard LaGravenese, "The Horse Whisperer" looks at first sight as another typical movie about a person's recovery after a traumatic event (in this case Grace's losing a leg and her best friend), however, more than dealing with the physical and psychological healing of the horse and it's rider, the movie deals with the emotional problems of a group of souls. The screenplay is not exactly faithful to the source novel, although it keeps the main story lines intact and despite the changes done the essence of the story is still well translated to screen. Some may disagree with me, but I think that the way Roth and LaGravenese build up the plot was considerably superior to Evan's book, and the toning down of the melodrama (although it's still a passionate story of romance) was for the most part beneficial for the story.
An excellent director of actors, Redford lets his cast to completely domain this character driven melodrama, creating a very natural and real portrait of human emotions. As in the book, Redford makes a nice analogy between the healing of horses and the healing of emotions (of course, with the advantage of a visual medium), although in a subtler, less melodramatic tone. This is very notorious in the way he lets his actors to use body language to express themselves, using silences, stares and face expressions as ways to communicate emotions. Still, even when the movie is certainly focused on the actors and their characters, Redford allows himself to give the film an extraordinary good look with Robert Richardson's brilliant cinematography, which captures the majestic landscapes of Montana in a very impressive and beautiful way.
Being a character driven story, the performances of the cast are essential for the success of the film, and in this case one could say that overall the cast did a good job in the movie. As Annie, Kristin Scott Thomas truly transmit the confusion of her character, torn between her life and the one represented by Tom Booker. As Tom, Redford is excellent, very effective in his role and completely becoming a character who expresses more with silence than with words. A young Scarlett Johansson appears as Grace, delivering a remarkable performance considering her young age. It's not a surprise that she went on to become a major actress as she grew up. In small but important roles, we find Sam Neill, Dianne Wiest and Chris Cooper as the main supporting cast of the movie, all giving an excellent performance despite their limited screen time.
If a movie is really well directed, has good performances and a nice script, what could be wrong about it? The answer this time is sadly so simple that it hurts: it's unnecessarily long. Pointing out this as a problem may sound like nitpicking, but it's long runtime truly damages the movie as it makes the film to drag a while, becoming tedious and boring at some point. I'm not saying that movies should not be long, what I'm saying is that in this particular case the long runtime feels unnecessary and out of place. I find the way Redford slowly develops his characters a notable feature of the movie, given that he allows us to really known them; however, I think that a better job of edition would have improved the final results a lot.
Overall, "The Horse Whisperer" is a very good movie on its own right, and while not being exactly faithful to the source novel, it keeps the whole spirit of the book intact. While the long runtime truly damages an otherwise good film, it's still a very good recommendation to those looking for a character driven love story without exaggerated melodrama. It seems to me that once again, Redford has made a classy film. 6/10
The Horse Whisperer is a film of contrasts: the driven career wife and mother whose husband and daughter don't quite meet her standard; the traditional ranch wife and mother who subordinates herself, with grace, to her family while wistfully wishing for just a bit more; the gifted horse trainer and cattle rancher who chose the rustic life over his city roots, at peace with his re-discovered values despite a painful divorce from the woman he loved; the loving husband who can never live up to his wife's expectations, though he spends his life trying to please her; the wounded teenage daughter who, unlike her father, rebels against her mother's attempts to mold her in her own image. The catalyst that brings all these contrasts together is a beautiful horse that is horribly injured, both physically and mentally, in an accident that also maims his young rider. Both are so traumatized that they have lost their will to battle their fear and despair. The mother finds a trainer known for his success in gentling troubled horses and drives horse and daughter from New York to Montana to meet him. His quiet strength, patience and ability to sense what is wrong has a profound effect, not only on the horse, but on the young daughter and her mother as well. The movie is long, but the healing process requires time. The pace of the film is appropriate to the unfolding of the story, the lush and majestic scenery and the serenity that seems to emanate from the vastness of the open spaces. The romance that develops between the mother and the trainer is poignant and compelling. The scene between them at the dance is worth the price of admission. Ultimately, the mother must make a choice between resuming her former life returning to (the city, her career and her family) and the seductive stability and tranquility she has come to cherish at the ranch with the man she truly loves and who loves her.
I loved this film, i am an experienced rider and i think the portrayal
of the horse and rider was amazing.
It was so moving and the way they captured each moment in the film was fabulous.
It makes you not only want to ride but to go to America or be a part of the film.
It takes some acting for a young girl to play that kind of role and she fulfilled it perfectly, capturing every emotion in one.
I know from experience horses can be the scariest of creatures no matter how gorgeous The way the directors captured the emotions of the youngster was brilliant and so realistic.
I don't care what people say it was ace and anyone with a heart will agree this movie was spectacular
I couldn't get past Robert Redford being the leading man while looking to be
in his mid 60's. Annie MacLean (Kristin Scott Thomas) looked to be someone
who was approaching middle-age, mid 30's perhaps, looking young and vibrant.
Going to great lengths to help her young daughter. She obviously loves her
daughter and her family. She takes a trip from the city, leaving a loving
husband back at home to wait for her. Then she finds "The Horse Whisperer"
a wrinkled, stoop shoulder old man living in the middle of no where. He
looked like he could have been in his 70's. So, what happens when a mother
in her 30's takes a trip from the city, leaving her loving husband behind,
to find help in the country... Obviously she will fall in love with a
wrinkled up 80 year old toad who walks around in cowboy boots and hats while
grunting through his meals prepared by the women folk, and eaten off of
checkerboard table cloths.
There probably was an interesting story in there somewhere, I just couldn't see past the "fish out of water" city girl, falling in love with some 90 year old guy that seemingly had absolutely nothing in common with her.
There are things we can understand and not fix, things we can fix and not understand, things we can stand under and not hear, things that don't exist yet tap us on the shoulder when we least expect them. Horses are like life. They pretend to be your friends. So why do they whisper? Robert Redford has captured a moment. I saw this film and I was ashamed. My Grandfather would cane the horse each Christmas. I grew up wanting to be Monty Roberts or at least John Yard. Remember in the Movie the Shining when Nicholson chopped through the door? Imagine Robert Redford doing that, only it's the barn. Here's ROBERT he would say, and then he'd go to work on the horse. Then there was page after page of him saying "all work and no play makes jack a dull boy". I need some filler so I'm going to repeat that until I have the required ten lines. "all work and no play makes jack a dull boy""all work and no play makes jack a dull boy" "all work and no play makes jack a dull boy""all work and no play makes jack a dull boy""all work and no play makes jack a dull boy". I think it was Teddy Roseville who said Dreams are like Rainbows. Only Idiots Chase Them.
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