A metaphor stalks the land... In Lasse Hallström’s flat melodrama, a man-mauling bear becomes the subject of numerous cross cuts intended to infuse this tale of grudging family reunion with some guiding symbolism. But even the overtrained bear seems to be going through the motions.
Grizzled rancher Einar Gilkyson (Robert Redford, doing a passable Clint Eastwood) is unglad when his estranged daughter-in-law, Jean (Jennifer Lopez), appears one day with her daughter. With trash bags for luggage, she comes to take refuge from an abusive boyfriend. That seems a no-brainer, but years back a car accident killed her late husband (Einar’s son), and she was at the wheel — something Einar never got over.
He subsists emotionally on the affable company of his ranch hand, Mitch (Morgan Freeman), whom he has nursed since a disfiguring bear attack. No surprises here: they trade grumpy-friendly dialogue, and Freeman does his sage routine, doling out tough love about not staying angry at the world your whole life.
No surprises, anywhere, actually: this is a film where characters constantly remind us of what they’re arguing about and speak in comeback couplets (“I don’t want you here/Well, then, I guess we agree on something!”). Redford gets far more screen time than his one-note character warrants, while Lopez seems a virtual absentee, already hemmed in by the script’s retro discomfort about her being a sexually active mother.
And Freeman beats the drum for the bear, with lines that could be chapters in a self-help book (Face the Bear! Feed the Bear!).
The backdrop, British Columbia, looks lovely. But one grizzly man is enough for now.
Opens September 9