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maryann johanson, not crying

An Unfinished Life (review)

It’s sort of obvious in that Robert Redford-y way we’ve come to know of late: the rugged, wounded, horse-whispering nonsmoking Marlboro Man coming to terms with Life, the Universe, and Everything, particularly his own cantankerousness. But obviousness be damned. The insights into the kind of caged personal hells too many of us live in many not be entirely original, but the journey out of that hell is a warm, comfortable, homey one — this is a movie to curl up with on a chilly winter’s night; this is the movie equivalent of a mug of hot cocoa. (It’s even got marshmallows on top: Josh Lucas [Stealth] as a small-town sheriff, all deliciously scruffy and uniformed.) Redford’s (The Clearing) Iowa rancher starts out the film saddled with a crippled ranchhand (Morgan Freeman: Unleashed) he tends with a masculine gruffness, an estranged daughter-in-law (Jennifer Lopez: Monster-in-Law) he hates with an inexplicable passion, an 11-year-old granddaughter (Becca Gardner) he never knew he had and doesn’t know how to deal with, and a chip on his shoulder the size of his beatup pickup truck. He will not end the movie a total softie, of course, but damn close. The sledgehammer director Lasse Hallströaut;m (The Shipping News) sometimes wields makes no appearance here; instead, he finds redemption for pain in the minutiae of life: in the grudging allowance to the farm cats their taste of still-warm-from-the-cow milk every morning, in the making of a sandwich on mushy white bread; he finds the love in the bickering and the sniping that occupies this thrown-together family.

MPAA: rated PG-13 for some violence including domestic abuse, and language

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