Thursday, July 17, 2014
Retro Review: Mystic River (2003)
This 'River' Runs Quite An Intense Yet Soft Wave
They say it is a script that carries a film, but if there is anything that I have learned over the course of my film-reviewing experience, a film's band of actors can help carry a film even the story is problematic. I felt the story is somewhat complicated here, but the outstanding actors help Mystic River create a strong tidal wave.
Mystic River follows the story of three former childhood friends: ex-con Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn), cop Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon), and sex abuse victim Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins). The three estranged men find themselves colliding after the murder of Jimmy's eldest daughter. From there is when things really begin to go from bad to worse as Dave becomes a suspect, Sean tries to crack the case and Jimmy is out for revenge.
First off, I thought the acting was spectacular. Tim Robbins is amazing and like a walking enigma as Dave. By the looks he gives from his eyes, you start to think he is a victim, but in scenes when he implodes, you start to think otherwise. Kevin Bacon gives a rather unassuming performance and both he and Laurence Fishburne, who plays his police comrade, pull off quite a good "good cop, bad cop" dynamic, with Bacon being the good cop. Sean Penn is also quite good even though, I'll be honest, I thought his performance was a bit sporadic. But one performance I really liked was Marcia Gay Harden as Dave's confused wife Celeste. Harden's performance was quite expressive in her silence and I give the Academy major kudos for recognizing a more quiet, observant performance and not just awarding her fellow nominated co-stars, Penn and Robbins. But overall, I thought the acting was quite amazing, even from Laura Linney, who had a smaller role as Jimmy's wife Annabeth. It doesn't surprise me that Clint Eastwood directed these brilliant performances since he is an actor himself. Plus, the way he directs it allows the heavy use of shadows that fit the film's shady tone, thanks also in part to the brilliant cinematographer Tom Stern. In my personal opinion, it worked a bit better here than it did in Million Dollar Baby.
I also liked how the film takes us into the point of view of those involved in the crime. We get a glimpse of the families, the suspects, and the cops as well. We even catch a glimpse of the daughter's boyfriend and how he handles the situation. So, I loved how the story wasn't one-sided and we see how everyone goes through the horrific crime.
My biggest pet peeve with this film has to be the ending. At the very end, it starts to become Shakespearean and to me, it just came completely out of left field. I actually had problems with the ending as a whole. I don't want to give anything away because I hate to do that. But I'll just say it could have delved into the idea of how we tend to let vengeance get the best of us out of the natural flow of the story, but it was a missed opportunity. Other than that, I have no other real complaints.
Overall, Mystic River is an incredibly well-acted yet problematic story that in the end just had me "lost at sea". I would say this is definitely worth a watch for the acting and the brilliant direction by Clint Eastwood. It is far from a waste of time, yet it probably would've been a lot better if not for the film's complicated ending.