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.
Yes, yes, yes. We’re thinking you’re wrong about the Eastwood thing, though, Roger â€” we haven’t seen that comparison anywhere, probably because, as everyone does point out, Freeman’s been doing the wise sidekick thing long before he was given grizzled codgers to play off of. Ebert perversely likes the film, simply because he finds it works for him â€” Stephanie Zacharek expresses similar sentiments, though she’s admits there something of a novelty factor to its appeal: "The picture is outrageously
predictable and somewhat poky, but there’s also something admirably
bold about the way it so adamantly demands we swallow its hokum." Armond White, who we’d half expected to declare the film a masterpiece, tosses in an inexplicable comment in at the end of a column he devotes largely to other films, saying that he was going to give "An Unfinished Life" an A for effort until he watched the new Criterion release of 1950’s "The Flowers of St. Francis" and remembered what a real quality film was like. Mark Holcomb at the Village Voice is also almost impressed with the film’s resolutely by-the-book Hallmark plot developments. Stephen Holden‘s totally our boy with this one though:
High on the list of the year’s corniest symbolic acts in a Hollywood movie is the freeing of a grizzly bear from its cage in the contemporary western "An Unfinished Life." And what exactly does the liberation of the beast from a makeshift rural zoo signify? In this solemn, sentimental bore of a movie that suffocates in its own predictability and watered-down psychobabble, it presages Oprah-worthy healing and imminent family togetherness after years of strife.
All in all, an uninterested bunch, and for good reason â€” "An Unfinished Life" is getting such a half-hearted release that no one’s going to find it until it becomes a standard of weekend afternoon cable TV, at which point all can admire the way that J.Lo’s fetching sundress/cowboy boots combinations (gritty! homespun!) are exactly what the hipster chicks are wearing in Brooklyn as we speak. Oh, and as we pointed out before, our review of the film is here.
Surprisingly more interesting, at least review-wise, is…
+ "The Exorcism of Emily Rose": It’s marketed as your typical late-summer supernatural schlock, but apparently there’s more at work in Scott Derrickson‘s semi-directorial debut about a priest (Tom Wilkinson) being prosecuted for attempting an exorcism on a 19-year-old girl (Jennifer Carpenter) who may or may not have been possessed, and who died as a result. A. O. Scott calls it both "a fascinating
cultural document in the age of intelligent design" and "propaganda disguised as entertainment," a film that supposedly gives fair weight to both possibilities but really sides with faith over science. David Edelstein seems both amused and a little angered by everything the film suggests:
Derrickson claims in interviews that "RashÃ´mon" is one of his favorite movies and that "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" gives both sides of the court battle their due. If you believe that, I have a grilled cheese sandwich with the image of the Virgin Mary that you might want to buy. We do get flashesâ€”almost subliminal onesâ€”of the prosecutor’s version of events, but he’s a close-minded prig whose mere facts are far outweighed by extended sequences that leave no doubt whatsoever of Emily Rose’s demonic possession.
("Rashomon" is also the most fucking over-cited film out there, and we’ll hazard a guess that half the people who toss it out haven’t actually seen it, it’s just become a shorthand term for presenting more than one point of view. We direct you to low culture for examples.)
Roger Ebert‘s impressed by the film’s attempt at complexity, and shares his own theories: "You didn’t ask, but in my opinion she had
psychotic epileptic disorder, but it could have been successfully
treated by the psychosomatic effect of exorcism if those drugs hadn’t
blocked the process." And we’ll give the last work to Michael Atkinson, who gets a little bodily functions-obsessed in his review:
The screenplay, in which contemporary characters use phrases like "forces of darkness!" is another type of spoor altogether. (M. Night Shyamalan could’ve squeezed it out after a chili dinner.)…If you can manage a dozen or more piss breaks during the ecumenical wrangling, you’ll come out ahead.