A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
The typical review of "An Unfinished Life" will mention that it was kept on the shelf at Miramax for two years, and is now being released as part of the farewell flood of leftover product produced by the Weinstein brothers. It will say that Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman are trying to be Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman. It will have no respect for Jennifer Lopez, because she is going through a period right now when nobody is satisfied with anything she does. These reviews will be more about showbiz than about the movie itself.
Sometimes you are either open to a movie, or closed. If you're convinced that "An Unfinished Life" is damaged goods, how can it begin its work on you? If you think Freeman is channeling the relationship he had with Eastwood in "Million Dollar Baby," reflect that this movie was made a year earlier. And give Lopez your permission to be good again; she is the same actress now as when we thought her so new and fine.
The story takes place on a rundown ranch outside Ishawooa, Wyo. It has seen better days. So has its owner, Einar Gilkyson (Redford) and his longtime ranch hand Mitch (Freeman), who lives in the little house behind the bigger one. Mitch was mauled a year ago by a bear, and is an invalid, given a daily needle of morphine by Einar. These men are essentially awaiting death together when they get visitors: Jean (Lopez) is the widow of Einar's son, who was killed in a car crash a dozen years ago. Griff (Becca Gardner) is Einar's granddaughter.
Einar thinks he hates Jean. He blames her for his son's death. She doesn't want to be at the ranch, but she has no choice; her latest boyfriend, Gary (Damien Lewis) beats her, and she has fled from him. It is a foregone conclusion, I suppose, that Einar will eventually unbend enough to love Griff, who after all is his son's child, and true also that Mitch is the ranch's reservoir of decency. The local sheriff (Josh Lucas) is not indifferent to the arrival in a small town of a good-looking woman.