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HORSE WHISPERER, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Fourteen year old Grace MacLean (Scarlett Johansson) suffers a terrible riding accident while astride her prized horse, Pilgrim. Grace's mother, Annie (Kristin Scott Thomas), a harried magazine editor, and her lawyer father, Robert (Sam Neill), can't figure out what to do about her depressed and withdrawn state. Learning about Tom Booker (Robert Redford), a man known for his gift of curing troubled horses, Annie packs up Grace and Pilgrim and heads to Montana, hoping that by helping the horse, Grace may also be helped. There they meet Tom's brother Frank (Chris Cooper), his wife Diane (Diane Wiest), and their family. As Tom begins working with Pilgrim, life slowly begins to fall into place.

"A movie masterpiece, The Horse Whisperer is one of those rare films that combines sensitive film making with inspiring story-telling. Robert Redford has lovingly created a film of overwhelming beauty, one that magically captures all subtleties and the very essence of survival of the spirit. From the very beginning, enthralling images of a horse pounding its hooves in the sand and the snow are sheer poetry. They set the scene for a moving story that is told unhurriedly with perception, grace and style. From images of absolute beauty to those of devastating tragedy, the opening sequences are penetrating and astounding. What begins as a idealistic search for an elusive Horse Whisperer - someone who communicates through the psyche (ĎI treat horses with people problemsí) - evolves into a story of re-evaluation of priorities, an awakening of the senses, and the conclusion that we make things more complicated than they are. The accident becomes a catalyst for change, discovery and acceptance. As with his character in Out of Africa, Robert Redford fits the mould perfectly, his screen charisma intact, delivering a convincing portrayal of a man with a way with horses (and women). The hand-picked cast is superb - Kristin Scott Thomas (complex, splendid), Sam Neill (at his best), Dianne Wiest (solid). Scarlett Johansson brings great maturity to her role - she reminds me at times of a young Judy Garland with a touch of Uma Thurman. Robert Richardsonís creative cinematography maximises the spectacular settings, while Thomas Newmanís glorious score pierces the senses. Exquisite cinema, The Horse Whisperer intricately explores the rich tapestry of human relationships in a film that is profoundly moving, haunting and a joy to savour."
Louise Keller

"Itís a simple story, really, but when you try to write it as a single sentence, it defies you; The Horse Whisperer of the title is the unchanging character who triggers changes in the others, so itís not so much about him, as AROUND him. And itís not really about the little girl who has a terrible horse riding accident, nor about her mother who is dragged out of New York publishing to help deal with it. Nor is it about the horse who is also badly hurt Ė although it is the horseís journey to psychological recovery that lays the foundations for the human drama. Donít know the book, but Redford clearly saw exactly what he wanted to do with it when he paid that record US$3 million for the movie rights. It was both a perfect role for him at this stage in his career, and a great story for him to tell with its combination of simplicity and complexity, its comment on natureís healing powers and its melancholy portrait of passing love. Being one of the cool romantics (from the Bogey school), Redford the actor never loses his machismo nor his sensitivity. This also applies to Redford the director, who encourages Robert Richardson to shoot, and his three editors to cut the film with enormous flair, invention and emotion. Spectacular, engaging and intelligent, The Horse Whisperer is a satisfying film that defies cynicism with its investment in genuine feelings, not sham sentimentality. Gallop along . . . "
Andrew L. Urban

"The closing image of Robert Redford's The Horse Whisperer has Redford's Tom Booker sitting proudly on a horse in the midst of the magnificent Montana country side. It's an image of a man who is truly the epitome of stardom; there remains an extraordinary aura about the 60-year old actor, who for the first time, has decided to direct himself in this urban western. In this age of special effects and car chases, monsters and pubescent screen heroes, The Horse Whisperer is an anomaly in an industry known for its tired formulas. Where are the films about people, the complexities of our lives, relationships and the intrinsic fragility of the family unit? The Horse Whisperer is quite simply, one of the great American films of the past decade, a hauntingly beautiful and lyrical work that is cinematically rich. No mainstream Hollywood film of recent memory is as poetically expressive yet so honest as Redford's lush take on the acclaimed novel. Its near three hour length doesn't seem to matter, despite what some jaded critics are saying; Redford takes his time in giving us a detailed exploration of a family in crisis and the integral relationships that foster within it, and the result is fine, delicate cinema. Yet the film is punctuated with a sly humour that adds to the credibility of these characters, so beautifully embellished. Redford himself delivers the finest performance of his career, dominating the screen yet remaining true to himself, as a subtle, nuanced actor. He's extraordinary, whether he's sharing the screen with a tragically tormented horse, or with his wonderful co-star in Kristin Scott-Thomas. He is equally aided by superb teenage actress Scarlett Johansson, who gives a poignant, emotionally complex performance as Grace. Sam Neill, in a smallish role as Grace's father, shines. The film also belongs to Montana, used so vividly as a symbol of the life Booker leads and visually, this film is nothing short of stunning. The various horses who were used in the film are just as remarkable in their own way. The Horse Whisperer is a masterful, intelligent and eloquent film deserving of a large and appreciative audience. This film could emerge as a true and rare movie classic for a generation of movie goers starved of old fashioned human drama on a grand scale."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed
: 0
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See Paul Fischer's interview with
SCARLETT JOHANSSON

HORSE WHISPERER, THE (M)15+
(US)

CAST: Robert Redford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Sam Neill, Dianne Wiest, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Cooper, Cherry Jones, Ty Hillman, Catherine Bosworth, Austin Schwarz, Dustin Schwarz, Jeanette Nolan, Steve Frye, Don Edwards, Jessalyn Gilsig

PRODUCERS: Robert Redford, Patrick Markey

DIRECTOR: Robert Redford

SCRIPT: Eric Roth, Richard LaGravenese (based on the novel by Nicholas Evans)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Richardson

EDITOR: Tom Rolf, Freeman Davies, Hank Corwin

MUSIC: Thomas Newman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jon Hutman

RUNNING TIME: 2 hrs 45 mins

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 4, 1998

VIDEO RENTAL RELEASE: September 1, 1999

TO OWN: Nov 3, 1999

RRP: $19.95

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista

Also available on DVD







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