Stone

Quickcard Review – 46th Chicago International Film Festival

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Stone

Directed by: John Curran
Cast: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich
Running Time: 1 hr 45 mins
Rating: R
Release Date: October 22, 2010 (CIFF 2010 Opening Night Film on Oct. 7)

PLOT: A convicted arsonist (Norton) aims to use his wife (Jovovich) to manipulate his religious parole officer (De Niro).

WHO’S IT FOR? Devoted followers of the cast members are sure to check this one out, regardless of the buzz behind it. While those moviegoers may not be able to be stopped, the audience members on the fence about seeing this drama with these three leading actors should probably just stay home.

OVERALL

Stone is just that – dull, flat, and immobile. Buzzing drives the movie. Whether it’s that of Jack’s (De Niro) religious radio, spouting off confusing and ineffectual philosophies, or Norton’s character’s new admiration for a religion that encourages humming to find peacefulness. As our ears may now, buzzing can get tiresome pretty quickly. This is especially the case with Stone, which plays out like characters testing the themes transmitted by religious radio, with the bombarding, sometimes difficult to hear monologues taking over the course of the entire story.

Oddly, there is not much to be said about De Niro in this film. His worn out religious character who struggles to break out of his self-made shell provides a couple of compelling moments, but they usually involve him sitting at the dinner table with his wife. The drama and performance of De Niro in this movie sometimes comes down to whether we believe that he really means it when he’s saying grace.

The performances in the film are decent, but that isn’t good enough here. For example, it’s obvious that Norton throws a lot of effort into his character, who is a character quirk away from being someone that would’ve been in Alpha Dog. Norton has cornrows, a raspy high voice, and a meek figure that create a true sense of weakness, despite the barking he does periodically in the film. But this performance lacks any striking moment or scene. He’s possible too subtle for his own good here, and the sidetracking subplot that he is taken on by the film midway through doesn’t help towards this cause.

Of the three, it’s Milla Jovovich who is the most curious, and not just because it’s the same woman who plays Alice in those Resident Evil movies. Jovovich is a good manipulator of the story, and conveys both a sweet, seductive side that seems like it wouldn’t be met with a deceitful angle. Her character becomes more interesting when we consider whether she is manipulated or just manipulating.

The odd part about Stone is that these performances hardly work together – instead, it more feels like they are acting against one another. Director John Curran’s camera seems to support this, as the characters are always captured in solitary shots, staring into the audience so that we (if we’re not bored already) can stare back. Should these performances at all be memorable, it would be because of their own scenes, and not because of any striking chemistry. However, Norton and De Niro are still more interesting in Frank Oz’s The Score.

FINAL SCORE: 5/10

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