THE HORSE WHISPERER
Perhaps the best of those real actors is Scarlett Johansson, who plays
Grace MacLean, a spoiled teenage girl from New York who has had a terrible
accident while horseback riding with her best friend. After losing her lower
right leg and learning to walk with a prosthesis, Grace must rediscover
what life is all about. Added to the trauma of the accident is the loss
of her friend and the total alienation of her beloved horse Pilgrim, who
was also badly injured. And the dysfunctional relationship she has with
her busy mother Annie (Kristin Scott Thomas) doesn't help.
While researching possible alternatives to euthanizing the animal, Annie
finds an article about Tom Booker (Redford), a man in far off Montana who
seems to have a way with problem horses. She contacts him and, although
he refuses at first, will not take no for an answer. Against everyone's
wishes, including her husband's (Sam Neill), she packs up the daughter and
the horse and drives across country to find Booker. And, in a film that
is as predictable as it is long, the two women discover the meaning of life
and love while living on the ranch, learning to punch cows and ride Western.
The characters in this movie, written by Richard LaGravenese and Eric
Roth based on the bestselling novel by Nicholas Evans, are badly stereotyped.
In the beginning of the film, Annie is portrayed as such a nasty, unlovable
person that it is obvious we are being set up for the big transition. Grace
is the rich girl who hates her mother and won't open up to anyone. That
is, until she meets Booker, the no-nonsense cowboy who doesn't cotton much
to New Yorkers but feels sorry for the horse.
Redford has no trouble playing this role because it's the only one he ever plays. The two women do quite well, struggling against their unlikely characters, especially Johansson, who really seems to make a journey of sorts. And the cinematography by Robert Richardson is stunning, no doubt the best aspect of the film. His use of blue filters in the opening segment emphasizes the serenity of the girls' fateful ride, and his colors and landscapes truly elevate the film. Thomas Newman's music is also beautifully moving. But the running time of 2:48 seems excessive for what amounts to another movie of Robert Redford practicing his usual brand of cowboy psychology on his latest citified girlfriend. ***½
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