The Horse Whisperer


Okay. Hereís the question: If you were asked to see a film that was written by the people whose most recent credits were 'Forrest Gump,' 'The Postman,' 'The Bridges of Madison County,' and 'The Mirror Has Two Faces,' what would your answer be?

A, Iíd look forward to seeing a bold and innovative example of cinema at its best. Or

B, Iíd expect a richly textured motion picture built around subtle characterization and complex relationships. Or

C, I would throw up and hope that the writers were within barfing distance.

If your answer was A or B, you are hereby excused from the rest of the class and you should run right down to see 'The Horse Whisperer,' which is certain to be your kind of movie. But if your answer was C, I would throw up in the faces of the writers, then you and I have something in common. 'The Horse Whisperer,' which might better be called The Horse Manure-er -- you know the joke about the guy who runs away to join the circus to be a star acrobat, and years later his friend finds him, and his job is sweeping up behind the elephants, and his friend says "Oh my God, how did it come to this? This is terrible, why donít you just leave?" And the guy says, "What, and give up show business?" -- well, "The Horse Whisperer" is the kind of movie where you want to make horrible tasteless jokes while youíre watching it.

Hereís the story. A charming, 13-year-old girl is cruelly injured while riding her horse, and perhaps I should add that the horse is cruelly injured while being ridden by the charming 13-year-old girl. Her mother, a cold and driven collection of cliches played by Kristin Scott Thomas with thin lips and narrowed eyes, is the editor of what we may take to be Vanity Fair magazine. The husband, a distant appendage played appropriately by Sam Neill -- well, he doesnít count for much here anyway.

So youíre asking how does Robert Redford fit into all this mishagoss? Well, Iím gonna tell you, as Monty Python would say. He is, are you holding your breath? The Horse Whisperer. What does a horse whisperer do? Well, on the evidence of this movie he actually doesnít do much that a lot of other people couldnít do just as well. Heís meant, of course, to heal the hurts -- not only of the horse, but, yes itís true -- of both mommy and little girl as well. How do they get to Redford? They go to Montana with the horse -- the film was shot around Livingston in the beautiful Paradise Valley, and it is gorgeous country -- and thatís where he begins his work.

And, youíll never guess, he does it, and it takes him only two hours and forty minutes, so what do you think of that? First, he tries to get a bridle on poor Pilgrim, the horse, and that takes him only an hour. Then, he tries to get mommy to go riding with him where they each can toy with the idea of a little hanky panky. That takes a while longer. Then, he tries to get the girl back on Pilgrim so that even if she is a little shorter on one side than she used to be she can still ride like the wind.

And finally, he -- oh, but Iím not going to give away the ending, other than to say that the last shot in this film is so sublimely awful you canít believe youíre actually watching something that a supposed professional spent time and money to shoot. Itís like some

atrocious western genre painting, in which the cowboy and his horse are both in tears at the end of the trail. In this case, the horse no doubt is wondering how he got himself into this mess. I understand how he must feel.