The Horse Whisperer - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Horse Whisperer Reviews

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½ July 11, 2016
A film of patience and some heart in the healing process and what comes in the duration justified the tediousness albeit stretching the focus narrative, benefitting from a suitable cast, especially Redford's guiding direction. (B)

(Full review TBD)
½ May 3, 2016
Annie MacLean (Kristin Scott Thomas) didn't think her life was going to end up this way. Had you asked her what her current level of emotional satisfaction was a couple years earlier and she might have told you that there's not a thing in her life that she would change. She loves her job (she's an obsessive magazine editor), has married the perfect man (Sam Neill), and has a daughter (Scarlett Johansson) with potential any parent would be envious of. Everything's worked out the way she thought it would - she lives the life everyone dreams of during their first few years of college, when unknowns fly left and right and a solidified existence is questionable.
But as 1998's "The Horse Whisperer" opens, something has changed. Her occupation is as thrilling as it's ever been, but it's taken over her life. We get a sense that her marriage is in comfortability mode, passion hardly present, and we get the sense that Annie's relationship with her child isn't as intimate and all-encompassing as it could be. So her world is rocked when a tragic accident shatters this family dynamic: while out horseback riding with her best friend (Kate Bosworth), Annie's daughter, Grace, gets in a traumatic accident that leaves her horse physically and psychologically damaged and her riding partner dead. Grace leaves the hospital with part of her right leg amputated.
Understandably, recovery isn't easy. As she's experienced something that's going to sit in the back of her mind every day for the rest of her life, returning to her usual routine is next to impossible. Pressure is being placed upon her to put down her horse, Pilgrim. But Annie, deeply concerned and unwilling to take the easy way out, does the unthinkable. Figuring that Grace will only be able to heal so long as Pilgrim does too, she contacts Tom Booker (Robert Redford), a renowned horse "whisperer" whose methods have brought several animals out of their warped states. Though he lives in rural Montana, and though Grace is reluctant, Annie packs up the car, Pilgrim in tow, to spend the next few months undergoing what will hopefully be a successful restorative process. Her husband, Robert, stays behind.
And so begins a strange siesta of psychiatric recuperation and self-discovery. Slowly but surely, Tom is able to lift Pilgrim and Grace out of their respective pits of despair, and Annie, for the first time in years, begins to put all her attention onto her daughter, strengthening their once shaky bond. Disconcerting, however, is the mutual attraction between Tom and Annie, which seems to be more extensive than mere school day crushing.
At 162 minutes, "The Horse Whisperer" is slow-burning and sweeping, always languid but never listless in its spirit. As it marks the first time Redford both directed and starred in a film, one can expect bravura filmmaking to be foremost, self-indulgence there but nevertheless subtly maintained.
Some have complained that the movie is too long-winded and patient for its story. And yet I find myself transfixed by its pacing, which is sleepy but epic, thoughtful but fluid. It works. It's a mature movie of magnetic poignancy, and its attentiveness toward the emotional standpoints of its characters is thoroughly felt and never artificial. Because "The Horse Whisperer" takes its time creeping to its climax (which somehow feels rushed; the film could drone on and on and we'd still be intrigued), these characters come to life in ways rarely seen in film. We can feel their pains and their hesitancies, and it's sneakily exhilarating.
Much of these triumphs can be brought back to Nicholas Evans, Eric Roth, and Richard LaGravenese's excellent screenplay, which defiantly makes the concoction of suffering, self-actualization, and longing ring with escapist purity. While watching "The Horse Whisperer," I was reminded of 1995's "The Bridges of Madison County," a romantic film similarly poetic and similarly written by LaGravenese. Both films used the space of a sizable running time as a way to allow for its characters to become more than just characters, to allow us to experience their feelings in a beautifully cinematic way. In some respect, though, "The Horse Whisperer" is more successful of a film than "Bridges" was, maybe because its larger cast emphasizes a wider range of emotions (therefore deepening its fantastical realism), or maybe because trauma is something that can hardly be romanticized in a feature film.
I think the biggest difference lies in the ensemble, which is effectively ardent and more humanely sympathetic. Thomas finds a lush middle-ground between control and desperation as a woman who's sharp as a tack when it comes to logistics but perhaps not so dextrous when it comes to serving the needs of herself and those she loves. Redford is strong and grounded - he's a good romantic lead but is even better behind the camera - and supporting performances from Dianne Wiest and Neill are critical in shaping the movie's backbone.
But the thing we remember most in "The Horse Whisperer" is Johansson, who was only thirteen during filming and who delivers the most evocative performance amongst the cast. Such is not an easy thing to do, considering she's surrounded by veterans who have arguably done nothing but terrific work in the majority of their films. But there's a reason why Johansson is one of the most extraordinary stars of her generation: while she possesses timeless good looks, she's able to convey enduring plaintiveness that makes her alluring to watch on a humanistic level. And watching her carry a film at such a young age is nothing short of a wonder. As Grace, Johansson is heart-rending, a tragic figure made all the more tragic because of her juvenility. This is one of her greatest performances.
But in regards to the whole, "The Horse Whisperer" remains to be filmmaking of the highest quality. Redford's vision, which is grand and exuberant, is invigorating to behold, the writing and performances supplementing his prowess rather delectably. The film is, by any standard, a little long for even the most accommodating of viewers, and the conclusion doesn't quite fit - it's too bittersweet, too rushed, for a movie that finds the silver lining in all the worst aspects of life, that finds nuances in even the most mundane of details. Cinematically, though, it doesn't get any better than this.
February 14, 2016
This is cinematic perfection! It is now 18 years old, and just 2 years away from being a classic! And it will be, and that status will be well deserved! I recommend this movie very highly! And one more thing, you can see this movie with your family!
December 27, 2015
This film completely overwhelms me. It is utterly beautiful. However, it isn't without an agenda. It encourages comparison between Diane and Annie, between the country wife and city professional respectively. I'm not sure that it reserved judgment either way, but it's clear that Diane doesn't approve of Annie. She fears Annie will take Tom away from his life, or moreover, that she will somehow corrupt Tom. However that the film deals in healing, we can honestly say that everyone comes out of it basically unscathed, but Annie. She loses her job and the man she really loves. Granted she sacrifices her desires for the sake of her family, but she made the greatest sacrifice and took on the greatest risk for her family, and is ultimately sent home in emotional shambles. The film also deals in usefulness, of which ironically, Annie is utterly stripped upon her journey home.
½ October 30, 2015
Robert Redford's "The Horse Whisperer".It's an excellent movie with brilliant acting Robert Redford himself,Kristin Scott Thomas and Scarlett Johansson(when she was a child).It's a brilliant movie! Don't miss it!
June 30, 2015
Emotional, inspiring, shocking.
June 21, 2015
thought the movie was well done and all the acting was really good. all of the camera work was done well for it was not boring throughout the whole movie. it is well worth getting
June 9, 2015
Generically made and dull.
May 15, 2015
This takes slow burn to a new level that is just to excruciating to think about again.
April 27, 2015
I do not understand why some reviewers do not like it. I think it is full of passion.... I love the score too. Favorite scenes: the dance! That is a Cajun move he used with the legs. Now that is passion.... that obviously the reviewer who said the movie lacked passion for their love to be believable missed entirely (or just does not know about). It was passion with integrity. Other favorites were their rides and the beautiful countryside. I also love every scene Dianne Wiest is in. The kids are also great. Robert Redford... THANK YOU for one of my favorite feel-good movies, which I enjoy watching over and over.
March 28, 2015
I'm a sucker for movies about horses and on top of that, Scarlett Johannson does a fantastic job in her breakout role.
December 29, 2014
Redford is good both on and off camera. The only downside is that it is a little bit too long. Enjoyable though, nonetheless.
½ November 16, 2014
Uninteresting main story but beautiful cinematography, suitably relaxed pace and some good dialogue manage to maintain some interest.
October 18, 2014
it misses a lot of the book but non the les still a great movie
October 11, 2014
the 3 hrs is a chore to get through but there really is some fantastic scenery and incredible acting on everyone's part
we also get to see a young and upcoming Scarlett Johansson give it her all as a one-legged girl who shares some baggage with an injured horse that cost her her friend's life
her mother tries to mend her wounds and the horse's as well as the whole family's in the form of Robert Redford as a famous healer of horses
but really there only is a fraction of actual horse whispering in the whole film and the rest of the time is focusing on Thomas and Redford pining for one another
September 26, 2014
It doesn't fulfill what I know it wants to, but there's something to admire when you watch Redford and Thomas onscreen. The running time, however, is something I'm concerned about.
September 23, 2014
OK I like the actors. It's a serious flick. But for the love of god It long slow and I had enough at looking at the psyche of that woman. AND THIS IS NOT A WESTERN. Just because there are horse and a cowboy hat does'nt make it a western. Get it of that list. It's a Psychological drama
½ August 24, 2014
Generally the horse(s) steal the show. In this instance, Robert Redford makes the movie. Based on a Nicholas Evans novel that is based on a real horse whisperer, it's a movie with good and bad.

Good is Redford's character and acting. The character is largely based on Buck Brannaman, the subject of the documentary "Buck." Redford is typically good and may not have a lot of range, but this role fit him perfectly.

Good is the story - a young girl and her horse endure a tragedy. Both are physically and emotionally scarred. City mom drives girl and horse 2/3 across the country to meet the healing horse whisperer. Evans has his issues with the movie but I've not read the book to determine which is better. Regardless, it's a pretty early role for the beautiful ScarJo, who must have been about 13 when they made the movie.

Bad is a little bit of over sentimentality. We get it...life on the ranch can be mesmerizing. Enough with the soft focus. And as Evans pointed out, Redford's character and abilities are made less man-like and more myth-like. Again, taking something good and stretching it to the point of weakness for the sake of dramatization.

Nominated for an Oscar in regards to the score I think, but Redford was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role. I think had they made it a movie about a horse whisperer, maybe he would have pulled in an Oscar nomination. He was definitely good enough. I think the softness of the movie took away from what he did to carry it.
May 26, 2014
Although it's excesses in plot, setting and running time will be off-putting to some, this is a film made with heart, and it shows. If you can put up with its shortcomings, it's got a lot to offer. The cinematography is exuberant.
May 23, 2014
To put into words how beautiful this movie is would be almost impossible but i'll try. I watched this movie several years ago and just the other night and both times I was amazed at how touching the story is. Yes I am a guy but one who realizes that a movie doesnt necessarily have to be violent to be good. This movie has what action movies dont have . . . heart. The story of a horse and a girl who's injuries cause them pain because the other's injuries cause them pain. Their souls and love for each other intertwine which is what gives this movie heart. Kudos to Scarlett Johanson who should have been nominated for an oscar. She makes this movie believable by wearing her characters pain on her sleeve. You feel for her and wince everytime she falls or cries. The love story is more of just a subplot. The soul of the movie is the horse and the girl.
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