Mystic River

Mystic River is a curious kind of film, for me. It is gorgeously directed, well-acted and subtly shot. It’s well-written too, and well-deserving of all the accolades it has received. It does indeed seem to be a culmination of all the directorial forays by Clint Eastwood; Sean Penn (Jimmy) is at his best, and Tim Robbins (Dave) is great as a disturbed/creepy guy, and Kevin Bacon (Sean) gets to do his stoic sufferer thing. So I should have liked it alot right? Well, I didn’t. And there’s 2 reasons why I didn’t. As a warning, the first is somewhat of a spoiler, so you may want to skip this if you’ve not seen it yet.

My biggest issue with the film is Laura Linney’s monologue at the end of the film, puffing up Jimmy, who’s experiencing some guilt pangs. It came as a complete shock to me, seemingly out of character with her and the established family dynamic. Her cold, calculating mafia-wife stance didn’t even make a lot of sense to me: standing by her man, showing compassion as he struggles with what he did, forgiving him — even saying it’s ok is fine. But the bit about ‘ruling this town’ just went way overboard. And it went on from there. Perhaps he really is some kind of minor crime boss, but there was no cinematic effect to establish this through the back-story. All of a sudden, he graduated from minor former criminal to criminal mastermind. And everyone just kind of accepted it. The nod from Sean to Jimmy across the parade was totally cop-to-enemy style, but I didn’t buy it, and it left a really awkward feeling in me as the film ended. Coupled with the lack of compassion for Dave’s wife as the wanders frantically, Laura Linney eyeing her coldly, just struck a wrong chord with me.

So the end of the first point leads firmly into my second disapointment: It was an incredibly manipulative film. One of the things I’ve always liked about Clint Eastwood as a director is that he’s been an underhanded, casual director, mostly letting the acting speak for themselves. But throughout this film, I felt like I was being manipulated to follow his vision of the truth, not simply letting the story reveal them to me. The particular aspect was the over-head shot/cut-to-focus technique. Each one would cover at least 2 possible avenues of focus, then would drop to one — the director saying: I could show you this or this, but this is what you need to think about now. Some films, such as American Beauty take this approach and run with it, raising each manipulation to a level of Symbol, then repeated throughout the film to drive it home. This film fell somewhere in between, I felt, which left it seeming heavy-handed to me. Or, left far too concious of the directorial actions, so I couldn’t lose myself in the storyline, thus making it harder to engage the story, and more importantly, the characters.

So I guess a somewhat mixed-bag review, but I would say that this film is definitely worth seeing, but perhaps just as a renter.

10 Replies to “Mystic River”

  1. I totally agree with Steve’s review – escpecially his first point regarding Laura Linney’s monologue. It was so pointless that I actually spent about an hour (after the film ended) wondering whether she killed her step-daughter. Several times throughout the movie, she displayed displeasure over Jimmy’s (Sean Penn’s) favoritism toward his oldest daughter (who was borne by Jimmy’s first wife).

    After I thought through the movie again, Laura Linney as the murderer didn’t really fit (other than the jealousy motive). Plus, my wife told me I was looking into it too much.

    But, what’s with this “rule this town” b_llshit??? Bottom line – the movie should have ended a few minutes earlier.

  2. I totally agree with Steve’s review – escpecially his first point regarding Laura Linney’s monologue. It was so pointless that I actually spent about an hour (after the film ended) wondering whether she killed her step-daughter. Several times throughout the movie, she displayed displeasure over Jimmy’s (Sean Penn’s) favoritism toward his oldest daughter (who was borne by Jimmy’s first wife).

    After I thought through the movie again, Laura Linney as the murderer didn’t really fit (other than the jealousy motive). Plus, my wife told me I was looking into it too much.

    But, what’s with this “rule this town” b_llshit??? Bottom line – the movie should have ended a few minutes earlier.

  3. I totally agree with Steve’s review – escpecially his first point regarding Laura Linney’s monologue. It was so pointless that I actually spent about an hour (after the film ended) wondering whether she killed her step-daughter. Several times throughout the movie, she displayed displeasure over Jimmy’s (Sean Penn’s) favoritism toward his oldest daughter (who was borne by Jimmy’s first wife).

    After I thought through the movie again, Laura Linney as the murderer didn’t really fit (other than the jealousy motive). Plus, my wife told me I was looking into it too much.

    But, what’s with this “rule this town” b_llshit??? Bottom line – the movie should have ended a few minutes earlier.

  4. I totally agree with Steve’s review – escpecially his first point regarding Laura Linney’s monologue. It was so pointless that I actually spent about an hour (after the film ended) wondering whether she killed her step-daughter. Several times throughout the movie, she displayed displeasure over Jimmy’s (Sean Penn’s) favoritism toward his oldest daughter (who was borne by Jimmy’s first wife).

    After I thought through the movie again, Laura Linney as the murderer didn’t really fit (other than the jealousy motive). Plus, my wife told me I was looking into it too much.

    But, what’s with this “rule this town” b_llshit??? Bottom line – the movie should have ended a few minutes earlier.

  5. I disagree with you both, and I do think you were reading too much into it. It had nothing to do with Jimmy being a “soprano.” As I saw it, Linney’s character saw how the whole mess could have unraveled her own family. And so she made a calculated move to show her husband that she was behind him and so were her daughters. She understood that his guilt could only infect their lives. And just for kicks she kinda got him “hard.” And I don’t just mean sexually. Jimmy’s guilt really could have messed up their family just as Dave’s guilt about his abuse did. She was bringing home Eastwood’s theme in the movie: the discussion of right and wrong and what role intention plays in morality. When Jimmy killed Dave he really believed he was killing the murderer of his daughter. The whole film was very Shakespearean tragedy in its delivery. And I loved the line Linney uses about Marcia Gay Harden’s character “What kind of woman says such things about her husband? And why did she come to you?” I get chills just thinking about that. I too questioned why Harden’s character couldn’t handle her own. Her monologue forced me to look at the characters more critically. It’s easy to get caught up in our usual views about right and wrong. What about weak and strong?

  6. I disagree with you both, and I do think you were reading too much into it. It had nothing to do with Jimmy being a “soprano.” As I saw it, Linney’s character saw how the whole mess could have unraveled her own family. And so she made a calculated move to show her husband that she was behind him and so were her daughters. She understood that his guilt could only infect their lives. And just for kicks she kinda got him “hard.” And I don’t just mean sexually. Jimmy’s guilt really could have messed up their family just as Dave’s guilt about his abuse did. She was bringing home Eastwood’s theme in the movie: the discussion of right and wrong and what role intention plays in morality. When Jimmy killed Dave he really believed he was killing the murderer of his daughter. The whole film was very Shakespearean tragedy in its delivery. And I loved the line Linney uses about Marcia Gay Harden’s character “What kind of woman says such things about her husband? And why did she come to you?” I get chills just thinking about that. I too questioned why Harden’s character couldn’t handle her own. Her monologue forced me to look at the characters more critically. It’s easy to get caught up in our usual views about right and wrong. What about weak and strong?

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