9 Nov

Title: Stone
John Curran
Angus MacLachlan
Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich, Frances Conroy
MPAA Rating:
R, strong sexuality and violence, and pervasive language
105 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:


Robert De Niro and Edward Norton are probably both among my five favorite living actors, and I like Milla Jovovich quite a bit. So it would stand to reason, then, that I would completely dig Stone, the new film from John Curran, who had previously directed Mr. Norton in The Painted Veil, which I thought was impeccable. Now, while all the performances were seriously good, the film itself left me unsatisfied. I liked it just fine, but considering the players involved the result could have been far more memorable.

What’s good about Stone is that there are quite a bit of scenes that feature just Mr. Norton and Mr. De Niro going at each other. Mr. De Niro being the parole officer and Mr. Norton being an inmate who wants to get something on him so that he lets him out. Their scenes have quite a lot of spark to them, a psychological duel between two great actors, and it shows how these two just feed off each other’s strengths.

I like Mr. De Niro’s character, Jack Mabry, who plays everything exactly by the book because he knows that deep down inside once he goes off the rails he’ll go off for real. Mr. De Niro really is a tremendous actor, and yes, that’s quite an obvious statement, but he seriously is, look at him here, as Jack battles his inner demons. His home life is far from perfect, yes, he’s married and yes, he has a kid, but his marriage is completely stale. His wife, played by Frances Conroy who’s also fantastic, has settled for him, she does nothing for the marriage and she is, seemingly, rather afraid of the passive aggressiveness Jack exudes.

As for Mr. Norton’s character, he is Gerald Creeson, and he wants to manipulate Mabry, who is handling his parole petition as his last case before retirement. You get to see Creeson is a very smart guy, he measures Mabry right out of the gate, and quickly senses the need the man has to stay on the right side of everything for fear of what would happen if he gave free reign to his inner desires. He knows this and so enlists his wife, Ms. Jovovich’s character, to pitch in on his plan to break the guy and get him off.

Milla Jovovich is a very beautiful woman, we know this by now, and her character in this one, Lucetta, is enlisted to play to those strengths to seduce Mabry and get some dirt on him so that he is forced to get Creeson out on parole. And I really liked how Ms. Jovovich played Lucetta, this is a role that some actresses may have played a bit too forward, a bit too slutty, but Ms. Jovovich plays her in a way that Lucetta seems just as smart as Creeson, because she doesn’t just go ahead and hit on Mabry, but rather she continues the mind games that Creeson started, and gets Mabry to think he’s making the moves when really she’s been implanting them in his head all along.

As I said, I liked Stone a fair bit, but it’s all because of these actors, Mr. De Niro, Mr. Norton, Ms. Jovovich and Ms. Conroy all giving truly stellar performances. But at times I felt it was a bit too heavy-handed, a bit too much, the actors make the most of this, sure, but still, this one should have been more layered, more finely tuned and the result would have been better. What’s worse is that you can go check out the writer’s, Angus MacLachlan, only other writing credit, and you’ll find out that it was 2005’s Junebug, which was a seriously sublime piece of filmmaking that had the sort of script qualities that would have made of Stone a much better film.

But nevertheless, this one still has four terrific performances, and they are the cornerstones of the film. Since it revolves solely around them, on the mindgames the characters play with one another, all of them experience being both the hunted and the hunter at one point or another, and all of them sell the hell out of the story. The moral dilemmas here are obvious, Mabry considering cheating on his wife, Creeson knowing his wife may have to sleep with another man to get him out, these are obvious and they’re good to have played out by these fine actors.

But, even though this review has been nothing but praise for these real fine performances, it must be said that I haven’t given any other praise because I can’t find where to direct it at, and as such I won’t be giving this film an amazing grade, because the story was just okay, the script could have been infinitely better and the direction was good because it gave these actors quite a lot of room to work, but then again if any director had these players he would be smart enough to do the same. So yes, the performances in Stone are top-notch, but the film just isn’t.

Grade: B-


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