Sunday, February 3, 2008

An Unfinished Life

An Unfinished Life (Lasse Hallström, 2005) There may be no director more genteel than Lasse Hallström. Whether his subject is incest, abortion (The Cider House Rules), depression (The Shipping News), disassociation (What's Eating Gilbert Grape?), he manages to sap any dramatic life right out of it, even beating out the Merchant/Ivory films for taking drama and making it blandly digestible. Hallström is a director for the blue-haired old ladies who attend matinees who like to be titilated with racey subject matter, but not shocked. Never shocked. What's Hallström's social drama of the week? It's family abuse. Jennifer Lopez grabs her daughter and flees her abusive husband (the always reliable Damian Lewis, who seems stuck playing heavies now), to her verbally abusive father-in-law (from her previous, child-bearing marriage). He's an old coot (Robert Redford, mussed up) crusty with scabs of bitterness from the death of his only son/her first husband, blaming her for the drunken car accident that killed him. Heaped onto that guilt is his own for being too in his cups to keep friend Mitch (Morgan Freeman) from being mauled by a bear (no, really, that's the story). It's all about taking reponsibilty and letting go of recrimination. By the end, even the bear has a change of heart and is forgiven his trespassings. It's all very neat, and very tidy and well-played by all. All it seems to lack is "Hallmark" watermarked on it. Still, one could do worse watching it.

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