Matt Damon has proven over his career that he can thrive in the genre of drama. Tom McCarthy’s latest flick “Stillwater” provides the groundwork for plenty of dramatic intrigue and admittedly Damon does thrive in this more unassuming role. I enjoyed this movie and liked the story it told. However, I didn’t love it and felt there were issues that got in the way of fully being able to invest in and feel the emotional punch. The primary issues for me with this movie was the length, pacing, and story-structure. A film hovering on two-and-a-half hours is never a deal breaker. But when sections of the film’s story-line feel neglected, such as with parts of this script, the result is a film that drags much too often. Which does hinder the intrigue.
There were on the other hand many pieces of this film that worked. I enjoyed the performances. Damon was solid in the lead. He easily captures the vibe of a common middle-American man that has his core values and ethical beliefs. Regardless of a past filled with choices and actions that frame a man who lived a life much different than the one he preached. Through spots of dialogue, you get the foundation of the character dynamics. And while thin, these moments were enough to capture the love a man has for his daughter and a man who was in a sense trying to right some of his past wrongs. So, it’s mildly compelling stuff. Abigail Breslin was capable as well. She brought range and emotion to the role and tries her best to add depth to a thinly written character. On paper this character plays much more like a plot device, but Breslin does bring some heart to it.
The problem for me was that with the lengthy run-time, there were still layers of the story that felt a bit contrived, with others that felt overshadowed. So, the final product feels like a long-winded telling of a story that needed more connective tissue to build a sincere level of intrigue and compassion while watching. Something this movie failed to do. The plot-line of Damon sort of growing a new family and his new friendship with this little girl seemed to take center stage. The (focal) plot of Damon’s daughter seemed to be forgotten in places. So later when the progression of that dynamic advances, it feels rushed and not framed to deliver the emotional impact it could have.
In the end “Stillwater” is an enjoyable film for people who are interested. From the performances to the production design, and the direction, this is a capable flick that can lure you in. Yet despite the weight of the emotional energy, it didn’t resonate with me. Spots of the drama feel overly deliberate, and it comes off mildly melodramatic. Therefore, despite the individual parts seeming greater than the final sum, there is some emotional fun to be found if you give it a chance.
Anthony J. Digioia II - SilverScreen Analysis © All Rights Reserved.