“An Unfinished Life,” one of the few remaining movies produced by the Weinstein-led Miramax Films, was filmed in 2003 and sat on the shelf at the studio for more than two years amid rabid media speculation.

The movie really wasn’t worth all of the hype. This film, the latest from heralded Swiss director Lasse Hallstrom (“Chocolat”), is a stark portrayal of a dysfunctional family living on a ranch in Wyoming. It opens as Jean Gilkyson (Jennifer Lopez) finally has had enough of her abusive boyfriend and escapes with her daughter Griff (newcomer Becca Gardner).

With nowhere else to go, Jean arrives in Wyoming on the doorstep of her estranged and bitter father-in-law Einar Gilkyson (Robert Redford). Living with Einar is his compassionate best friend, Mitch (Morgan Freeman), who has been mauled by a bear. Einar blames Jean for the death of his only son, and so the movie ultimately becomes a tale of forgiveness and acceptance.

With a cast this distinguished, the film’s performances are as strong as one might expect.

Gardner turns in a solid debut as Griff, and though it’s hard to picture a Puerto Rican goddess growing up in rural Wyoming, a post-Bennifer Lopez tries her best to make us forget her work in “Gigli” and tries to regain the aclaim that she garnered with “Selena.”

Breathtaking scenery and skillfully subtle cinematography complement the performances in “Life.” Filmed in Canada and set in Wyoming, the movie succeeds in capturing the stark beauty and rugged features of the American West. This is due in part to Hallstrom who, after a four-year hiatus, proves that he can still create visual magic behind the camera.

That said, the film still fails to find a solid direction and pace. With a storyline that begs for tragedy and heartbreak, Hallstrom contrives a happy ending. The movie sets a tone of melancholy and intrigue from the get-go, but there are no twists, and we are left merely to wait for the inevitable Einar and Jean reconciliation. It’s a formulaic and ordinary story to the bone; “Life” plays like a movie that we’ve already seen one too many times.

There’s no better example of this than the sentimental casting of Freeman as the wise older sidekick to the troubled leading man. It’s a role that we’ve all seen him play many times before alongside Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby” and most famously in “The Shawshank Redemption.” This is also the case with Hallstrom, who has already directed a film about isolation and family life in small-town America, the superior “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” And despite its stellar production, the sheer lack of ingenuity ultimately makes “Life” a forgettable experience.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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