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Overall Rating
3.32

Awesome31.71%
Worth A Look: 17.07%
Average: 14.63%
Pretty Bad: 24.39%
Total Crap: 12.2%

2 reviews, 29 user ratings


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Horse Whisperer, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Mother, did it need to be so long?"
2 stars

In 'The Horse Whisperer,' a stressed-out city-slicker woman goes to Montana with her anguished teenage daughter and their uncontrollable horse; she falls in love with the studly trainer who works with the horse.

How long did it take you to read that? Ten seconds? It takes Robert Redford, the director and star, two hours and forty-nine minutes. It feels like a lot longer, too. One can appreciate what Redford is trying to do: He wants to slow us down, to lure us into the leisurely tempo of ranch life. That's nice of him, but unfortunately he also gives us plenty of time to poke holes in the story.

The Horse Whisperer is a sort of compendium of Redford's first three directorial efforts: the touchy-feely family conflict of Ordinary People and A River Runs Through It meets the hardworking-people-of-the-soil worship of The Milagro Beanfield War. Admirers of Redford's previous (and best) directorial outing, Quiz Show, won't find any of that film's subtlety or smarts here. I haven't read Nicholas Evans' source novel (adapted by The Fisher King's Richard LaGravenese and Forrest Gump's Eric Roth), but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and assume it isn't what the movie is -- The Horses of Madison County.

Redford is Tom Booker, a laid-back cowboy who dedicates himself to gentling wild horses when he isn't posing or Pez-dispensing bits of down-home wisdom. New York editor Annie MacLean (Kristin Scott Thomas) seeks him out after her daughter Grace (Scarlett Johansson) gets into an accident that leaves her with an amputated leg and her horse with physical and psychic wounds. It's up to Tom, the ten-gallon therapist, to work his charms on the horse and its equally wounded owners. For fun, I imagined transplanting Tom to Ordinary People and letting him loose on Mary Tyler Moore and Timothy Hutton; he'd set those uptight WASPs straight in no time -- or in less time than it takes to cure Annie and Grace.

The movie looks great (cinematographer Robert Richardson did the honors), and Redford looks suspiciously great -- certainly much younger than he did during his chat with Rosie O'Donnell last week. At times he's prettier than his leading lady. And the additional burden of directing himself seems to have drained his charisma. But then the character of Tom as written defies any interesting performance. Tom is a noble New Age cowboy, while Annie is a standard rigid careerist and Grace is a pouty teen. I kept flashing back to The Sweet Hereafter, which gave us ten times as much in half the screen time, and Johansson won't erase anyone's memory of Sarah Polley's fate-scarred Nicole. Scott Thomas, meanwhile, seems to be humoring Redford as both co-star and director, giving him the simplistic emotions he wants.

The forgotten man of The Horse Whisperer is poor Sam Neill, once again the clueless cuckold (see The Piano), as Annie's doormat husband, who lets her yank their child out of school and live on a ranch thousands of miles away with a guy she's never met. Neill is offscreen for most of the movie, then shows up near the end to complicate things as much as things ever get complicated in this film.

Annie faces a difficult choice -- should she stay or should she go? I felt the same conflict about halfway through this very long sit, but I heeded Tom's sage advice about sticking to it, and so I did, long after Redford had beaten his thematic dead horse ("To thine own self be true") to death and beyond.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=163&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/26/07 04:10:22
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User Comments

5/30/14 Monday Morning Damn - I thought it was "The Whores Whisperer." But it was an awesome story anyway. 5 stars
3/12/08 mr.mike OK for an (overlong) chick flick , 3.5 stars 4 stars
2/17/08 ROBYN POWELL FANTASTIC MOVIE 5 stars
4/29/07 action movie fan boring waste of time 1 stars
2/22/07 docmoreau They Don't Shoot Horses, do they? 3 stars
10/03/05 Michael Weak story but well worth watching. 4 stars
5/06/04 John with all due respect to Mr Redford this is one big bore 2 stars
1/04/04 moviebuff maybe not total crap, but pretty close 1 stars
12/01/03 R.W. Welch Cut 20 minutes and you've got a pretty good pic. 3 stars
3/28/03 Atanu Horses? kids? fuck the combination. 1 stars
3/27/03 Jen Great movie, but a too long chick flick. 5 stars
3/24/03 Jack Sommersby A good old-fashioned romantic drama. 4 stars
8/08/02 I Can't Swim Redford & Whatshername have no chemistry at all; waaay too long, also 2 stars
7/12/02 KMG Worth a look....would't buy Redford falling for Kristen S.T, though 4 stars
3/07/02 Jenny Tullwartz Anticlimactic letdown, and how come we never hear the title character whisper? 3 stars
1/26/02 Alexandra Balint This is the best film I ever seen! 5 stars
4/16/01 I love movies a slow-moving and long-winded movie, but the young girl gives a fantastic performance 4 stars
3/27/01 moi toi love it 5 stars
12/21/00 Connoisseur only for women 3 stars
2/17/00 Bozo why would i care about smug Robert, ice princess Kristin, and a girl I never heard of? 1 stars
11/07/99 cara mason not as good as the book 4 stars
10/03/99 Bridget very touching, realistic and magical 5 stars
6/15/99 Dylan This film is like, totally gay dude. 2 stars
4/11/99 Tristynn Will I ever get 'the' accident out of my head.. Thats poor horse..great movie.very touching 4 stars
2/18/99 Derek Redford's vanity wet-dream. I know you started Sundance, but get over yourself. 2 stars
9/12/98 Leah Favors One of the finest productions of a top bestseller! 5 stars
8/28/98 Mister Whoopee Bored the living crap out of me. 1 stars
8/25/98 The Capital City Goofball Yucky stuff. Drab. 3 stars
8/16/98 {{{OZ}}} Did it have to be soooooooooooo long? 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  15-May-1998 (PG-13)
  DVD: 02-Sep-2003

UK
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Australia
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