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The Horse Whisperer

Director: Robert Redford
Cast: Robert Redford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Scarlett Johannsson, Sam Neill, Dianne Wiest, Chris Cooper

(Touchstone Pictures, Wildwood Enterprises; US DVD: 3 Jul 2012)

Somehow I managed to go 14 years without knowing a single thing about The Horse Whisperer. While this may not be a particularly remarkable accomplishment in and of itself, given that a) I love movies, b) I love Robert Redford movies (other than Lions For Lambs- - I like Tom Cruise too, but damn that movie was baaaaaaad), and c) I like horses. I grew up with horses. My mom still has horses. Half her life is horses. I’m the other half—at least, I better be. Sorry, Katie and Dad – there’s no room for a sister and husband with all these horses running around.


So how did I skip out on a Robert Redford movie about horses for so long? You know, I’m not sure. But until last Friday when the recently released Blu-ray edition showed up in my mailbox to review, I had no idea what I was in store for other than a whopping 169 minutes of Redford shooting Redford. Sounds perfect, right? Wrong.


“Last Friday” also happened to be Friday, 20 July 2012, aka The Dark Knight Rises Day. For reasons outside my control and not pertinent to your life in any way, I could not go see The Dark Knight Rises opening night. This, obviously, was a torture worse than watching Paul Walker in a one-man play.


I needed something to distract me from my plight, so I thought – “Perfect! Bobby ‘Sundance’ Redford will keep me entertained!’ As I’m sure most of you know by now, The Horse Whisperer is far from Redford’s best work as a director or an actor. It’s far, far, far too long and lacks coherence, focus, and basic entertainment value. I picked up on this early on, so I took to our generation’s best outlet for procrastination, distraction, and inane jabbering to chronicle my experience… and keep myself sane.


Ten minutes into The Horse Whisperer. Incredibly depressed. I finally understand why some people hate ScarJo. #HorseKiller #WheresRedford?


The movie starts with the most amount of action you’ll see in the entire picture. Right as the title credits end, we’ve got a massive, life-altering tragedy – for those who’ve seen it, you know. For those who haven’t, I don’t want to spoil anything. That tragedy kind of, sort of, sets up the rest of the movie. What I can say is that Scarlett Johannsson is a horse murderer! She should work for a glue factory! It was terrifying. I don’t know if I can see her the way I did before… she’s suddenly much, much less attractive.


These catastrophic events lead ScarJo and her mom to drive from New York to Montana in search of an elusive horse trainer (Robert Redford? Who knows? He’s nowhere to be found) ScoThom read about in a magazine. The characters’ motivations for the move are a bit murky, but the slow pace allows the viewer to fill in any blanks themselves, so don’t worry.


Still depres-ROBERT REDFORD! There he is! Oh. It’s just a picture. This is not distracting me properly from not seeing #TDKR.


There’s no spoiler in saying eventually Redford does show up, but somehow the movie actually gets worse once his character is introduced. It’s not his fault as an actor. Redford can do the “Aw, shucks” routine with the best of ‘em, and he manages to stroll through this feature giving us the sense he’s not fully committed. He still somehow layers his straight face with every emotion he wants to convey.


78 mins into #THW. Engrossed in the magical mountains, captivating countryside, and #RR [Robert Redford]. Haven’t thought about Bane in…damn it! #TDKR #ASAP


One thing Redford does well here is capture the absolutely stunning scenery of mountainous Montana in all its sundrenched glory. With the help of veteran DP Robert Richardson – ha! Double Roberts behind the camera! – Redford’s visuals are by far the best aspect of his film.


112 minutes into #THW. Realizing it’s focusing on the wrong person. Waiting for Batman to swoop in and take out the horse killer. #TDKR #ASAP


This is why the movie bogs down once rancher Tom Booker (Robert Redford) starts whispering – the focus goes haywire. Who’s story are we telling? Is it little ScarJo’s, the hurt and scared girl who just wants to love again? Or is it ScoThom’s movie, perhaps focusing on her strained relationship with ScarJo and her inexplicable romance with Tom? Wait – maybe it’s Marlboro man Redford’s flick, after all. He plays the most nuanced character and is the only one in the title of the movie. I still don’t know, and it killed the movie.


135 min in.Most awkward/inappropriate dancing ever only makes me want to see Bruce Wayne and Selena Kyle try to top it.


Ok. I have to talk about this. I’m sorry, but SPOILERS.


What. The. Hell. How did Robert Redford think it was peachy keen to start the most seductively touchy slow dance of all time with a married woman in front of her husband? It lasts more than a full song (the music video is included as a bonus feature); it’s incredibly sexy; and worst of all, her husband watches the whole second half and doesn’t do anything about it! I can see why Robert would think he needs a scene of passion to show just how invested these two are in each other, but common sense has to be a factor, as well. You don’t mess with another man’s wife, Robert.


It’s over! It’s finally over! Now I can go see #TDKR! Wait. The review. I have to write it. Ughhhh. Maybe I can just use my tweets… #Lazy


Annnnnnddddd done! Off to Batman!


Wait! Special features! They’re somehow worse than the movie. There’s nothing but a few featurettes no longer than two minutes, a teaser, a trailer, and the aforementioned music video. None are in HD and none are worth the ten minutes it takes to get through. Ok! Bye! #TDKR!

Rating:

Extras rating:

Ben Travers is an awards season analyst and prognosticator with a devout interest in all things film & TV. Mr. Travers lives in Los Angeles as an experienced writer and filmmaker with an extensive portfolio of coverage, including thorough reporting on the Academy Awards, weekly box office reports, and more reviews written than will ever be read. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa with degrees in both journalism and cinema.


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