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Stillwater – first-look assessment

Matt Damon is a father preventing for his imprisoned daughter’s launch in Tom McCarthy’s tonally uneven drama.

Multihyphenate film man Tom McCarthy has a different credit score record. Notable highlights embody enjoying a corrupt reporter in The Wire, engaged on the story for Pixar’s geriatric tearjerker Up, and being accountable for Adam Sandler shoe fantasy-drama The Cobbler. However most know him as the author/director of 2016’s Greatest Image winner Highlight, which portrayed the Boston Globe’s ground-breaking reporting into historic sexual abuse throughout the Catholic church.

Profitable an Oscar isn’t essentially a assure of future work, however McCarthy’s profession has taken a wierd flip since then. He labored on the screenplay for Marc Foster’s Christopher Robin in 2018 alongside Alex Ross Perry and Allison Schroeder, and wrote and directed 2020’s kid-friendly comedy Timmy Failure: Errors Had been Made for Disney+. His newest mission is a return to extra grownup territory, even when tonally it retains among the chaotic vitality McCarthy’s CV possesses.

Matt Damon performs Invoice Baker, a rough-hewn Oklahoman oil employee who makes frequent journeys to Marseille to go to his daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin), who has been in a French jail for a number of years following a conviction for the homicide of her girlfriend and roommate Lina. Allison maintains her innocence, and when a brand new lead within the case presents itself, Invoice sees a chance to do proper by her after failing as a father when she was younger. Navigating a overseas authorized system proves to be an uphill battle, nonetheless, so Invoice turns to his new acquaintance – single mom and actress Virginie (Camille Cottin) – for assist.

Similarities with the real-life 2007 homicide of Meredith Kercher are apparent from the outset. Simply as that case attracted a media frenzy round convicted-then-acquitted suspect Amanda Knox, the script (written by McCarthy, Marcus Hinchey, Thomas Bidegain and Noé Debré) touches on native hypothesis surrounding the case. Invoice brushes up towards tight-lipped teenagers and soiled coppers in his pursuit of the reality, and shortly realises he’s in over his head. 

If this sounds just like the recipe for a reasonably textbook thriller, McCarthy makes some questionable narrative selections which result in a way of narrative whiplash. The core storyline butts up towards a romantic subplot, whereas racial and sophistication tensions in Marseille are additionally touched upon, in addition to the potential violence of white ladies’s tears. There are a whole lot of concepts crammed into the movie’s 140-minute runtime, and so they usually compete for consideration to its detriment.

A thriller exploring the weaponisation of white feminine fragility and white male violence is an intriguing idea (and a extra fascinating one than Stillwater can actually ship) however this theme is explored solely as an afterthought. Invoice’s relationship with Virginie and her younger daughter Maya, who signify one other probability at redemption, is given extra screentime.

Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners is a common cinematic comparability, albeit a greater executed story of desperation and guilt. Stillwater gestures in the direction of prescient points and questions that we not often see white filmmakers grapple with, however total the movie feels unfocused and fails to pack an actual punch. A disappointment, then, however an oddly compelling one all the identical.

Printed 8 Jul 2021

Tags: Abigail Breslin Matt Damon Stillwater Tom McCarthy

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