Wednesday, October 22, 2003
I watched Mystic River two nights ago. It was my tenth movie in a theater.
Mystic River was originally a mystery novel by Dennis Lehane, a writer from Massachusetts. Clint Eastwood, the famous actor and now director, bought the film rights, and transformed Lehane's novel into a compelling film. It was a very satisfying adaptation, expertly done by screenwriter Brian Helgeland.
The buzz about this movie was strong for folks living in New England. Eastwood decided to shoot on location, since the setting of the novel was in an area near Boston (Southie). I had read the newspaper reports and made a mental note to see this when it came out.
The novel is a police procedural, but it is also a terrifying look at how child abuse can reap something sinister. It's also a terrifying look at revenge. Lehane's novel captured my imagination quickly. The characters were well rendered, and the action and mystery were sufficiently drawn.
The movie is in acting showcase. There were super performances by Kevin Bacon and Laurence Fishburne as detectives. The acting by Tim Robbins as a man struggling with his abused past was frighteningly good. Sean Penn's performance as the father who moves from grief to anger to coldness is awesome to see. Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney were also noteworthy. (Everybody tries the infamous Boston accent; I liked Robbins' take on it.)
The movie moves very deliberately. I kept thinking how simple, how sparse everything was: the photography, the editing, the dialogue, the sets. Nothing was out of place to jar you out of the Lehane's world. As a reader of the novel, I felt this movie captured the essential emotions of the novel, which for me was the real miracle.
The climax in the novel was a stunner. Bad things happen to good people. And bad things happen to bad people. Lehane's novel doesn't flinch, and because of this bravery, there's a powerful impact. I was left shaking my head at the end of the book: Oh my God. Thankfully, the movie doesn't flinch either.