Fantastic Fest 2010: STONE Review

     September 30, 2010

The relationship between a parole officer and an inmate is one with constant tension between what is and isn’t true. As John Curran’s Stone observes, how much truth is shared, if any, may never be known as the human drive to simply survive can create a powerful situation that is so believable, it might fool the very people meant to read through all the false fronts that are thrown their way. Religion, deception, reformation, seduction, and the power of lies are all explored as Stone (Edward Norton) weaves his way through our hearts and minds, leaving plenty of questions in the wake of the remarkable ending. Join me after the break for the full review.

Parole officer Jack (Robert De Niro) is nearing retirement and has a few unfinished cases left to clear before he wants to ride off into the sunset. While Jack merely coasts through the routine of his job, things come to a crashing halt when Stone (Edward Norton) is put in his path. After serving eight years, Stone is ready to get out as he feels he is breaking on the inside, so he solicits his beautiful wife Lucetta (Mila Jovovich) to encourage Jack to be merciful. As the motives and lies become muddy, dark secrets are revealed about all involved that threatens to bring everything crashing down.

Ambiguity is a tough plot point to carry for over 90 minutes, but John Curran manages to get some of the best work out of his three principle actors. Norton has a poker-face to die for, as his maddening dialect and cornrows defy his intelligence and unbreakable desire to be free. At first, his game is easy to spot, but as the lies and revelations come to the forefront, we are left guessing his intentions all along. Meanwhile, De Niro’s piercing stare and confident demeanor provide the perfect foil to Norton, as their on-screen duel of words become riveting showdowns. Throw in Jovivich’s role as the unrelenting seductress and we have a film that pushes through the lulls in the story by focusing on the interactions between the main trio, which is exactly where it should be.

Powering the action is the intriguing story by Angus MacLachlan, which manages to weave past a number of clichés and give us a new mystery to solve by ourselves. No topic seems sacred in his narrative, and by the time the film wraps, you will be left slack-jawed and in awe. There are lulls in the story, and the mood is not cheerful, so this film isn’t for everyone. Stone wears its R rating on its sleeve, but the ultimate questions and discussions it is sure to foster make all the hurdles worth the journey. Again, it must be stated that the three principle cast members steal the show and take what could have been a dull film and create something much more riveting.

Stone is a study on a plethora of themes that are given just enough time under the spotlight to create a balance throughout its narrative that makes the film feel larger than life. Throw in three incredible performances by Norton, Jovovich, and De Niro and we have a film that will surely garner acting nominations to add to this already impressive drama. Curran makes no excuses for what the film is, as its dark nature and examination of the various themes can be a bit dreary, but the ultimate questions and discussion it should foster makes the film a worthwhile experience. Look for Stone in theaters on October 8th.

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