Stillwater- An Aggressively American Mess
Tom McCarthy’s newest film Stillwater is loosely based on the infamous story of Amanda Knox, in this version, Allison Baker is accused of killing her girlfriend and as her father, Bill Baker, played by Matt Damon, visits her, he decides that he will personally work to prove her innocence. Directed by the same man who directed Best Picture winner Spotlight, Stillwater was something I was very much excited to see. After watching it though, I am baffled that this was made by the same man who made one of the most intriguing and well executed films of the past decade (Spotlight) as none of the talent he clearly has, is being used here.
The biggest issue with this film is the protagonist who is just unlikable. Matt Damon’s Bill is the epitome of an ignorant tourist, specifically American. He takes the phrase “fish out of water” to the nth degree, he is a fish who has purposefully left the water, knowing it will not be able to survive out of the water, and yet is annoyed that it can’t breathe and frustrated that the out-of-water isn’t the same as in it. He has been visiting France for years and hasn’t bothered to even learn the basics; someone says “bonjour” and he responds, in a thick southern American accent “hey”, and the few times he bothers to speak French, he speaks with an accent as bad as Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds (although this isn’t done for comedy) as he mutters “mersee”. At times, it felt like this film was satirising the typical American tourists that often get mocked by Europeans for their cultural ignorance. In one scene, a French university lecturer says that the reason the French press were so ruthless to Allison is because they were envious because she is American, and America is the “cultural elite” … in what universe is France, the home of the Louvre, a country that is the birthplace of cinema, with a rich and long history, envious of America’s culture? Things like this littered throughout made me think it was perhaps a satire, but everything else was pointing toward this trying to be a serious emotional film. Bill is not nice to the people around him, he is ignorant, selfish, entitled and we’re meant to empathise with him? He makes wildly inappropriate and unjustifiable decisions and yet this is the man with whom we spend the entire, lengthy runtime.
The next biggest issue is the screenplay. To say Tom McCarthy also co-wrote Spotlight, one of the most captivating, tight, and exciting screenplays in recent memory, this screenplay is disastrous. It seems totally unaware of what earth is like in 2021. At one point, the characters take screenshots from a public Instagram account to help them find somebody, and someone says they can’t take these photos to the police because “we stole these photos from Instagram” and people just accepted it. I was baffled by so many things like this, a random reference to “fake news”, bad boomer jokes about guns, I could go on forever. The screenplay also demands a mammoth runtime of 2 hours and 20 minutes, and you feel every second. This should’ve been under 2 hours or extended and turned into a mini-series. There is so much of Bill just standing around, walking around, driving around, while listening to his country music to remind us how American he is, it drags so slowly. But at other times it is rushed, the ending is rushed, Bill is given no time to react to some huge news he receives so we completely lose any momentum the plot was building because the climax is either rushed or non-existent because too much time is wasted on following Bill doing absolutely nothing of worth.
There isn’t really anything this film excels at; everything is adequate. It is thoroughly average, the cinematography is dull, the editing successfully strings the scenes they filmed and that’s about it, the direction is unremarkable, the writing is, as I’ve discussed, terrible at times but the few times it isn’t dreadful it’s merely competent. The performances are okay. Camille Cottin easily gives the best performance as Bill’s love interest; Matt Damon tries but it’s difficult to enjoy his performance because his character is just so unlikeable.
It’s difficult to criticise because, while I did not like this at all, there really isn’t much that is actively bad, it’s just thoroughly average. It had a few interesting moments, one or two great scenes, some brief tension, but this film was just not for me at all, and I’m not sure who it would be for; probably the older cinemagoer, but for me, I have overwhelmingly negative thoughts. As a big fan of McCarthy’s other work, I wanted to like this, but I just couldn’t.
Ruth Negga Set to Co-Star with Jake Gyllenhaal in AppleTV+ Series, ‘Presumed Innocent’
After the holiday season, we finally have some news to report in the world of film and television! According to an exclusive from Deadline, Oscar-nominated actress Ruth Negga (Loving, Passing) is set to co-star in the AppleTV+ series, Presumed Innocent along with Jake Gyllenhaal.
Negga will join the ranks of many other stars recently attaching themselves to Apple streaming series including Brie Larson, Meryl Streep, Edward Norton and Harrison Ford. Interestingly enough, Presumed Innocent is a television adaptation of the 1990 film starring the latter Ford, whose part will be played by Gyllenhaal in the series for the streamer. The series follows a horrifying murder that takes place in Chicago when the Chicago’s Prosecutor’s Office gets turned upside down when one of its own becomes the prime suspect. Negga will play Barbara Sabich, an artist, gallerist, mother and wife who is married to Gyllenhaal’s character. The role of Barbara was played by Bonnie Bedelia in the original movie.
The series, which has been a hot package since Gyllenhaal has been in discussions to star, is also set to have creative forces such as David E. Kelley and J.J. Abrams behind it. Kelley will act as showrunner, writer and executive producer for the show while Abrams will also act as an executive producer. Anne Sewitsky (A Very British Scandal, Black Mirror) will direct the first two episodes.
Negga most recently earned a Tony nomination for her role in Macbeth on Broadway alongside Daniel Craig. She also has an Oscar-nomination for her starring role in Loving. Negga last starred in Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut, Passing, in 2021 and will also star in Dan Levy’s directorial debut, Good Grief which is currently filming.
Matt Damon and Casey Affleck to Reunite for Heist Film, ‘The Instigators’ at Apple
After previously collaborating in the Ocean’s trilogy and Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon (The Martian, The Departed) and Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea, Gone Baby Gone) are set to lead another heist film for Apple titled The Instigators. According to an exclusive from Deadline, the two actors will star in the film as two thieves who must go on the run with one of their therapists after a bank robbery gone wrong. It truly sounds like a mixture of the heist elements of the Ocean’s films with some therapeutic elements reminiscent of Good Will Hunting along the way whilst on the run.
While there are no casting details on who will be the therapist this time around, we can confirm that Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, The Bourne Identity) will direct the film. The package was highly coveted by multiple streamers with Apple putting up the cash to make the deal happen and bring in even more star power to their Apple Original Films banner. It’s a good relationship to get started as Damon and Casey’s big brother, Ben Affleck recently announced their new production banner, Artists Equity with The Instigators being announced as one of their first projects in development. Chuck MacLean, who created the recently cancelled Boston-set cop drama, City on a Hill, will write the script.
Damon has always been very active in the film industry, but his upcoming slate is one that would excite almost any movie fan. First, Damon will appear in the Christopher Nolan atomic bomber biopic, Oppenheimer, where Peaky Blinders star, Cillian Murphy plays the titular J. Robert Oppenheimer. Damon is just one of the stars of the remarkable ensemble that has been assembled by Nolan which also includes Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Emily Blunt, Gary Oldman, Casey Affleck and Rami Malek, just to name a few. Additionally, the first project announced for the Artists Equity production company, is Air Jordan, a film in which Ben Affleck and Damon play the shoe salesmen who helped lure Michael Jordan to Nike. The latter will be the first feature directed by Affleck since his gangster flick, Live by Night back in 2016.
On the other hand, Casey Affleck, who won the Academy Award for Lead Actor for his performance in Manchester by the Sea has mostly floated under the radar since then. The younger Affleck does have a two-hander music biopic, Dreamin’ Wild in the can co-starring with Zooey Deschanel that is awaiting wide release. He’s also set to lead the next Joe Wright film, Stoner and star alongside Laurence Fishburne in the sci-fi film, Slingshot.
Taron Egerton to Re-Team with ‘Black Bird’ Collaborators for AppleTV+ Series, ‘Firebug’ based on Famous Arsonist
Big day for news at Apple as it appears that Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Rocketman) will re-team with his Black Bird team returning to AppleTV+ for a new crime series, Firebug according to an exclusive from Deadline.
Firebug will bring Egerton back into the fold as Dennis Lehane (Black Bird, The Outsider) will reunite to create this series in which the actor will star as John Leonard Orr. Orr was an infamous investigator of arson and former firefighter, and the series will see Egerton following two serial arsonists trying to take down the fiery culprits. Lehane has written many novels based on some of the more famous and well-renowned drama features of modern times such as Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone and Shutter Island. Egerton will be joined by another detective who has yet to be cast in the chase for the two arsonists committing the crimes.
Black Bird just garnered two Critics Choice Awards nominations for Paul Walter Hauser and the late Ray Liotta, who portrayed Egerton’s father in the series. Within the series also based on true events, Egerton plays Jimmy Keene who goes to jail for drug possession before cutting a deal with the FBI to befriend a suspected serial killer (played by Hauser). Additionally, Egerton will also star in the upcoming feature film, Tetris: The Movie for Apple and appear in the Netflix film, Carry On alongside Jason Bateman in 2023.
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