Despite it's sad use of convention, all of the actors (yes, including Mrs. Lopez) acquit themselves well here.
If you've seen one of these kinds of films, you've seen them all.
You have seen An Unfinished Life before. Okay, you may not have seen this movie before but you have seen it's type. Take a broken down old man (Robert Redford) who is wrapped in a knot of bitterness. Add a young woman who has some sort of relationship to him (Jennifer Lopez; in this case she's his daughter-in-law) and her daughter. Now put them together, throw in some townies where the old man is from (Josh Lucas) and give that man a good friend who makes him reevaluate his life (voice of reason du jour, Morgan Freeman).
Alright, I have deliberately left out some aspects of this film's plot but do you really need me to finish this for you? Add the fact that this is also a Miramax film (one of the last that Bob and Harvey Weinstein had their hands on) and I think you will be able to fill in the blanks of this picture.
A nice commentary track from the film's Director Lasse Hallstrom, Producer Leslie Holleran and Editor Andrew Mondshein. Like the film, they talk about the usual things, the actors, the locations, making this movie, etc.. While I know that Hallstrom is sort of a "house director" for Miramax, I think it's obvious he wishes they hadn't dumped his film.
This making of was somewhat painful for me. I don't mean to slag this DVD so much, it's just that I think it's sad that they have assembled such a strong cast only to completely underutilize them. As I watched this film I couldn't help but wonder how the director who had made My Life as a Dog, had gotten so far away from himself?
"Training Bart the Bear"
Since all the main characters are as "fleshed out" as an indy film lets them be, that means that supporting characters like Morgan Freeman's Mitch have their share of the backstory, too. Mitch was mauled by a bear and is recovering from that. As Bart the Bear does play a role in this movie, this featurette looks at his training so he can "act" on screen.
A simple gallery that looks at the shooting of An Unfinished Life. Nothing too amazing here but I do I like the colors and the way some of these shots were composed. It seems that when you're making a Western styled film, a still gallery on the DVD is somewhat mandatory.
2.40:1 - Widescreen. The look of this film, while as pedantic as it gets for this kind of movie, does have that plodding, albeit comfortable Western feel. Hallstrom is never afraid to let the camera linger and take in those moments that other director's might eschew for a tighter narrative. If nothing else, this film isn't afraid to take it's time and develop it's characters. It's what is eventually revealed that is the disappointment.
English - Dolby Digital 5.1. The audio, like this film's look, is also right on. It isn't that An Unfinished Life is a bad movie, it just doesn't seem to make any effort to get better than it is. The tale that is being told is well worn and familiar to all the players involved. The audio accompanies this movies pace and never seems to do anything more than underscore each scene. Maybe what is so odd about An Unfinished Life is that everything is in place?
Redford, Lopez, Lucas and Freeman are the dominant photographs that make up this front cover. There is also a shot of Lopez hugging her daughter. The back of this DVD gives us some more shots from the film, a description of the movie, a "Special Features" listing, a credits list and some technical specs. I think there is a market for film's of this nature and I think there is a market for these actors. If you like them, certainly check out this film on DVD. Just know that the movie is going to feel somewhat familiar.
What in the world has happened to Independent film? Where did all the daring movies go? Why is it that every film has to either appeal to a special interest group (usually in the form of an Asian martial arts flick that takes place centuries ago)? Or, it seems if the films do take place in present day America, they can only be about very dysfunctional families. I think it's sad when the really good films, lets say a movie like Brick or Primer, are too far outside the normal pap that people can't even see just how good they are.
Indy film used to be about making different, personal films. Then it became a way to get to make big budget movies for Hollywood. Which isn't bad as long as the film's (and the filmmakers) stay interesting. Then, once stars started using it as a venue to reignite their careers, it became like everything else. That is the biggest problem with An Unfinished Life, it's too much like everything else.
An Unfinished Life was released September 9, 2005.