I was able to attend the sneak preview of An Unfinished Life Saturday night, in Muvico Paradise Theater, in Florida. For about nine years now, i have been what one would call an "Oscar predictor". I predict movies and their potential to compete in every year at the Oscars. Not saying that that's what I do for a living, but, I first started in the year of 1997, with movies of the likes of Titanic, L.A Confidential, Good Will Hunting, Armistead, just to name a few. The reason why i even started the hobby was so i could bond with my little brother, and so we could be able to share a common interest. As the years went by, I grew more attached, to what i call, the "job", and more attached to the idea of being able to share something in common with my brother. I had heard about An Unfinished Life since last year, and even put deep consideration into its chances for an Oscar. Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed when Miramax pushed it to next year, along with Proof. I assumed it was a bad movie, shelved and forgotten, especially after a series of mixed reviews as of late. We went in, like I said before, not expecting a whole lot of the shelved film, and, were ready to be either surprised, or, the more likely, disappointed...
actual review- Coming out of the theater, me and my brother were, in a word, surprised, and in all aspects of the film. We thought the film was actually pretty damn good, despite being sort of cliché, and sometimes predictable.
The movie is a story about forgiveness, as it says in every single website that the film appears in. But, what many fail to understand is that the movie, in fact, is a story of letting go of the inner depth person one can be as a result of pain, anguish, bitterness, loss, hatred, depression, and, most noticeably, the horrible death and loneliness of sorrow. It is also a story of a sense of hope and redemption one is able to see in the little things in this world, and in the most unexpected and life-changing obstacles of life. An Unfinished Life exceeds in illustrating that beautifully and profoundly.
The movie did, however, have it's difficulties and problems. Some scenes I felt could have been cut, like when Lopez and Lucas decide, after just meeting each other twice, to go off into some deserted area and have sex. Also, i felt that some scenes didn't work b/c they just edited a little too much, like the whole subplot with the abusive boyfriend. The audience just doesn't get that feel from Lewis' character because the character just shows up too little, or, he just isn't able to capture the true strength of someone feared and dreaded by all dueto screen time and the material provided during his screen time. Another problem was the relationship b/w Lucas and Lopez which is as well underdeveloped. At the end of the film, your still not quite sure if they are just friends, or friends who truly feel something towards each other, weather it be pity, or love, or intimacy, etc.. Another major problem was that some scenes just felt too quick compared to other scenes that seemed to long. For me the biggest problem of the film was the editing.
Now, in my opinion, the best thing about the entire movie is the performances. We'll start of with Redford. He is absolutely magnificent. It is definitely a Redford we haven't seen in a while. He's performance gives a great mix of tragedy and despair, humor, and deeply touching grief and dwelling. Some scenes, like when Einer talks to his son, or when he tries to let go of the tragedy he considers is his life, or the scenes where he and Mitch, Freeman, remind us of their brilliant talent, are truly genuine, sincere, wonderful and truly special.
One of the most pleasantly surprising elements of the movie is Jennifer Lopez. In this film, Lopez is really able to show us a side of herself that we haven't seen since, oh well "Out of Sight". Jennifer Lopez is believable in every aspect as a masochistic woman who is susceptible to mistakes, and tries her best to be a good mom, even when she fails to realize all the pain she makes her daughter go through, even if it's not intentionally. Some scenes like when she tells Lucas of her abusive boyfriend, seem to appear almost pitch perfect. And her big scene stealer is extremely impressive, expressing a great amount of fear and anguish and regret. That scene, and the role itself, is an incredible achievement, one of which she herself should be proud of.
Freeman is absolutely wonderful in the film as well. Even though it's basically kind of the same role he always plays, he portrays his role with enough sadness, enough humor, and enough life to make you, once again, forget that it's Freeman. Scenes where he is finally able to achieve strength and courage over the bear that ruined his life, and his unfolding heart towards Griff, prove to be extremely effective. The young actress, who plays Griff, Becca Gardner, is also excellent in the film. Despite being surrounded by A list actors, the little 11 year old is able to hold her own ground, and make herself stand out. Also, the cinematography and score were beautiful.
Despite its faults, the movie is able to express a kind of power very rare in movies now a day. It is able to express the agony of truth and acceptance, and the beautiful essence of hope, which is most of the time, the only thing a person has within themselves, and in life. An Unfinished Life is a terrific accomplishment, and I highly recommend it.