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Filmmaking 101 has a rule; wait, Art 101 has a rule: Know your genre. A
drama can have comic relief, but that works only in the framework of
the genre that's been established. Comedies can have their dramatic,
emotional moments, but if they then turn into dramas, audiences are
confused and disappointed. If a screenwriter and director can't even
tell their story competently within the confines of the genre they
first set up, their movie will fail.
Yes, Stone is well acted. So what? Do you go to the movies to see good acting class exercises? If so, check this movie out. Norton and De Niro are entertaining, early on at least, and there's sharp dialog they have to work with (how else could they do their jobs? Don't you love people who praise the acting without acknowledging the script?)
But the story the real reason most of us venture out to see a film in Stoner is a mess. The movie starts off essentially as a thriller. The plot sets up a con working a con, with his sexy wife, on a prison case officer. But after putting the movie is thriller mode the movie then tries to be a drama about the meaning of life and presence of God. The movie tries to turn its main plot with the wife into a subplot, and then pretend that fun, salacious venture wasn't really what the movie wanted to deal with. No, let's talk about the meaning of life.
Stone, then, is a disappointment. Even as a drama it fails: the story dissipates into ambiguity with regard to the final action. POVs have jumped around all throughout the movie but in not showing us the final resolution between Stone and his wife, the whole fulcrum of the movie is left blank. As for the transformation of Stone something Norton tries to act by occasionally calming his voice and widening his eyes it's unbelievable, not fully formed or demonstrated and, like the rest of the movie, a pretentious attempt to take a fun dime-store novel's story and make it profound.
Don't waste your time or money with this one. If you have to see it, wait for video. The movie is shot in TV-like close-ups for the most part and it will play just as well there.
I have never heard of this movie until it came to my local theater. With a A-list star line up such as DeNiro, Norton and Jovovich how could this movie miss. I was wrong. It did. Those who appreciate great acting in a movie won't be disappointed. (Did you ever see a movie Edward Norton was in that he wasn't absolutely great..well, maybe a couple that he may have did for the just the money..lol. His absolute best was "American History X") The movie itself moved along a pace that one keeps looking at his/her watch waiting for the ending. And the ending, again, is the latest Hollywood type...it sucks. Storyline was interesting but never got you interested to a point where one found it entertaining. This was a 98% dialog movie. You could be listening to this entire movie and never watch the video portion and understand the entire script. I am a big fan of Norton and Jovovich but this movie I could have passed on.
De Niro , Norton and Jovovich . Quite the cast I'd say , but thats all
there is to it .
The start is really interesting , both De Niro and Norton giving top notch performances . But then everything is lost as the movie looses focus and struggles to define itself . What starts of as a thriller goes nowhere trying to answer existential questions . No character is developed enough , the background stories clumsy and incomplete and thats in my opinion what killed this movie . No cohesion and a weak ending is the coup de grace .
Edward Norton is one of my favorite actors , so is De Niro . Im so disappointed that this didn't work out .
Greetings again from the darkness. Psychological Thrillers have long
been my favorite genre of film. The best ones cause us to examine our
own thoughts while analyzing the actions of others we probably don't
quite understand. Unfortunately, most scripts fall short in complexity
and stimulation, and leave us with a half-empty character study.
Director John Curran (The Painted Veil) and writer Angus MacLachlan
(the superb Junebug) offer up a just-miss.
Robert DeNiro plays a parole officer on the brink of retirement. He is the guy that lives and works by the book to suppress his inner demons of which we get a glimpse in the film's opening. Despite the horror, he and his wife stay married for decades ... the relationship is built on a false worship of scripture and plenty of nerve-deadening booze. DeNiro decides to finish out his current files, one of which belongs to Edward Norton. He is an 8 year convict, serving a sentence for a crime that ended with the death of his grandparents.
The real fun begins when Norton enlists his schoolteacher wife, played by Milla Jovovich, to invade DeNiro's cold facade. So really what we have is: DeNiro trying not to feel anything, Norton trying to pull one over on DeNiro either by himself or with his wife, and Jovovich trying desperately to obey her husband while playing evil mind and body games with DeNiro. This is the point I like to call "the table is set".
Unfortunately, none of these story lines really go deep. The best seems to be Jovovich and DeNiro, but even that falls short of real grit. So much potential here and the actors all seem up for anything. It's just the script lets them off easy.
Frances Conroy is excellent as DeNiro's wife whose had her soul locked away. We never really get the full scoop on the Norton/Jovovich connection, but by the end, that doesn't seem to matter. Is the film watchable? Yes. Could it have offered more deliciously evil interaction between these characters? Absolutely.
When reading the ratings and reviews of this film I believe that some
viewers went in expecting something different. I can fully understand
that it wasn't for everyone. The film surprised me as to how non
typical it was in its plotting but it was the best character study in a
Jack(Deniro) is about to retire but requests that he can finish his final convicts paroles. Stone(Norton) is one of those convicts. Stone starts as a character who wants out of prison but not for the reasons a parole officer would want. The plot is seemingly straight forward in its setup. Mila Jovavich gives a wonderful performance, most notably because the audience is never really clear on which direction she is taking in her motivation. Its not a trait to make her more of a suspenseful character, its to show how one dimensional her relationship really is with Stone.
The essential plot setup is Jovavich and Stone decide on a plan to seduce Jack so that the parole is a must. The problem is that once this starts, Stone begins to experience change. As does Jack. I will not go into it much more. The film relies on the characters emotions rather than intense cat and mouse games. The film sets the audience to follow the "good guy" (Deniro) but it challenges the audience later to decide really who to trust.
The most interesting aspect is that Jack is content when listening to Stone's problems but when Stone begins to change, Jack is not alright with it. The years of holding back his darkness cannot stay contained when he is not judging others.
The film is definitely one to be analyzed. This could be why the reception is severely mixed. It had a profound effect on emotion. No specific type except dread and in some cases, familiar motives.
The film cannot be reviewed without a depth of character discussion, so in this case check the film out. Just do not expect typical suspense thrillers Hollywood has given. Ignore the rating until you view it yourself. And if nothing seems to get your interest, just expect great performances for Deniro, Jovavich, and Norton.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I went to see Stone earlier today for an advance screening as Ed Norton
is promoting the film at my school next week. Honestly I had absolutely
no idea what this film was about going in. The marketing just flew over
my head I suppose. I just knew who was acting in it.
Stone centers around Jack Marby(played by Bobby D, a welcome sight that he isn't in a Meet the... movie), a parole board officer who does preliminary interviews on convicts who are approaching their hearings. His character has a dark past we're alluded to in an all to short opening flashback, and he is something of a dead individual who is absolutely done dealing with people lying and manipulating him to get the parole board to let them go. We meet him as he nears retirement and wraps up his last inmates.
This last inmate is convicted arsonist "Stone" played by Ed Norton who is trying to manipulate Jack into letting him free, even if it means having his gorgeous wife Lucette (Milla Jovovich) pull some strings from the outside.
What follows is a great character drama, and the acting in it is phenomenal. It really is. Milla Jovovich stands out the most I think with her character who has a lot to do. I'd personally give her an Oscar nod. Truly though, this is some great acting. De Niro is perfect as the strung out officer, and Norton plays the convict expertly who can express a wide range of emotions and display many motivations.
My complaint with the film is that the audience is left wanting more from the story, and not in a good way. We have a short opening flashback of Jack, which shows a disturbed and violent man, that I an all the others who saw it thoroughly enjoyed. But they never came back to that. It presented some interesting back story and hinted a lot, but there is no pay off.
That being said, that is my only complaint. I think that the acting here was truly great, and the story might be a bit straightforward, was still thoughtful and pensive and entertaining to watch unfold.
I had no expectations, but I thought it was very well done. There was also great editing and sound design, which you'll notice early on.
All in all, a good character piece that carries a weak story that leaves you wanting more. There is a lot to enjoy and take in as Lucetta and Stone work on getting him out of prison. Very solid film. Not perfect, but solid.
Going to the theater, my expectations of "Stone" were rather typical of
any thriller produced nowadays. Reading the (somewhat misleading)
synopsis and looking through the cast, I couldn't set my hopes up to
anything far beyond "ordinary thriller with a decent cast that probably
won't outdo a potentially blunt story".
Keep in mind: this is NOT a thriller, at least in the conventional sense of the word. It's a heavy drama with extremely minimal undertones of suspense.
The basis of the story is quite simple (read the synopsis), but the majority of the film's focus is in its character study. This is where the actors seriously shine. That seems to be the issue with most of the negative responses the film received. Yes, it is slow paced. Yes, there's a lot of religious jargon thrown around. Yes, it is quite the anti-climactic film. But isn't that the point? De Niro, who I haven't seen in anything memorable after Jackie Brown (okay, I'll exclude The Good Shepherd), is marvelous as the underplayed Jack Mabrey. The subtle nuances he gives to a character so burned out of work, marriage -sidenote: Frances Conroy was amazing-, and life in general (the speech he gives at his brother's funeral in the beginning comes to mind) are nothing short of astonishing. I can't stress on how great the performance was, De Niro has definitely gone back on track.
Edward Norton is equally terrific. I could go on and on about his perfect use of mannerisms, facial gestures, and especially the accent to formulate an interesting character. What I found interesting, and fortunately detracted any notions of the film being one-sided religious crap, was the contrast between Jack and Stone's religious beliefs/endeavors; Mabrey, for instance, sitting in the porch with his disturbingly delusional wife, discussing religion and the existence of God, while shunning its very purpose during situations of danger and conflict (the seduction, and another scene towards the end which I won't spoil). Stone, on the other hand, a misguided delinquent with strange views of death, forms an epiphany on the purpose of his existence at a more realistic - another good word is unconstitutional - level during his stay in prison, confusing the hell out of everyone due to his inability of expressing it on a more intellectual basis. This probably makes one very lucky case of ignorance being bliss.
The biggest surprise, however, was Milla Jovovich. I honestly did not see that coming from her at all. Her previous attempt in handling a serious role in ".45" only came off as an attempt, with clunky overacting that I guess can be forgiven due to the frigging horrible writing and direction of that film. But she does extremely well here as Stone's wife, the sexy seductress with a personally agonizing struggle of commitment. With her loyalty to Stone becoming blurred through the sexual encounters with other men and her general flirtatious attitude, it was mesmerizing to see Jovovich pull it off so well. She was simply dynamic in this film.
As the credits started rolling, I could hear many people in the theater ranting about how their time has been wasted. Lots of "what the hell?" came up, too. I'll admit that it came off as a surprise to how it just abruptly ended, but I eventually managed to appreciate the artistic integrity of the film. One reviewer here commented: "Stone is well acted. So what? Do you go to the movies to see good acting class exercises?" I can't put myself to agree with this, the film's got far more that just "acting class exercises". It is a sharply written, well directed film that I plan on watching again.
It sure got me thinking, and that seems to be what many others don't expect anymore.
"Stone" is a messed up film. I would like to say that I don't know what
the story was about, but that's not really true as it was a very
simplistic plot. Edward Norton is a convicted criminal up for parole,
overseen by parole officer Robert De Niro. It's not so much that the
story is hard to understand, more so that nothing actually happens.
It's dialogue-heavy as Norton philosophizes his way to freedom, and it's supposed to be character-rich as we watch De Niro try to remain sane as both Norton and his wife Milla Jovovich work their angles on him. But these are just messed up characters that I knew less about at the end than I did at the beginning. The film has clear problems when the only somewhat likable character is the guiltless criminal Norton. But I would say it's bigger problems are with the fact that it's supposed to be a thriller, but all you have is De Niro and Norton jabbering back and forth until nothing is clear and very little of consequence or action occurs. There is even a religious undertone to the whole film, but I have no idea what they were trying to say with that.
I'm sure De Niro and Norton deliver great performances as they always do, but when their characters are poorly written and make no sense, you can't watch a film for the acting. The director was overly concerned with detail, framing every scene and adding nuance to each shot, which is great in some films, but in "Stone", it would have served him better to just try and tell a story from beginning to end.
A prison psychologist (Robert DeNiro) has the final interview of his
career, with a man called Stone (Edward Norton). Things get more
complicated when Stone starts finding religion and Stone's wife (Milla
Jovovich) uses her charms to influence the psychologist.
Other reviews have called this film "pretentious" and I am going to follow their lead. I feel like the story was going to go somewhere and just did not go there, or the writer had a message to share with us, but it was either missed or not as big as I expected. So, maybe pretentious is a harsh word, but until shown otherwise, I am going to go with it.
My other big problem with the film is that it is clearly called a "thriller" by pretty much everybody, and I do not know how that was placed on it. There are no thrills to this film. Suspense maybe, tension maybe... but no real thrills. It is a pretty tame film, more a drama than anything.
I feel that the film tries to explore spirituality and fails. There is a background of church radio, Stone's search for understanding, and some Bible passages... but I was waiting for it to come together and it really just did not ever do it. There was no firm Christian or anti-Christian message. There was some talk of morality, but it was very jaded.
DeNiro gives a great performance, Norton's is not top-notch (I never really believed he was what he appeared to be). Milla is tough to pinpoint. Some have called her performance "raw", but I think that is just a polite way of saying she gets naked. She plays her character well, but it is a shame to see her so dumb-down when she can play such strong, independent women.
I think this film meant well, and they gave it a good shot, but it just fell short in a bunch of places. The performances were not what I wanted to see, the story has enough holes that I do not feel it is complete or tells a story that goes somewhere. In the end, I felt empty inside. Whatever I was supposed to get out of this, I did not get.
Deniro and Norton, back together again. Stone's first two acts are
great. You're intrigued, it's unpredictable, and interesting. But the
third act leaves you confused and almost unaffected by the story at the
end. Stone (norton) is up for parole and wants to get out. Why not
throw his sex-crazed wife (jocovich) in front of Jack's (Deniro) feet.
But one of these three is starting to see life under a new life. How
will this play out? Norton was great but nothing spectacular. Will
remind you of his primal fear days. But what makes his performance so
good is how he makes his character so likable considering the
ridiculous offensive lines that come out of his mouth.
I don't think they went far enough with Deniro's character. It wasn't written well enough. It starts off with a flashback on his broken relationship with his wife and what extremes he goes to keep her. But this ins't really paid off well in the film.
Interesting film. Not predictable. Good performances. Less than mediocre writing.
My verdict B/C
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