Stone (review)

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No, wait: lemme guess what we’re meant to take from this turgid drama of small lives and smaller ambitions. “Some people do bad things and go to prison, and some people do bad things and live their lives out in the wide world as if they’re in prison anyway”? “Crazy, quietly desperate men are sad and sympathetic, and crazy, aggressively desperate women are slutty objects of derision”? It’s only the startlingly belligerent honesty of Edward Norton’s (The Invention of Lying) portrayal of the title character that makes this worth a look. Stone committed a terrible crime years ago, for which he has taken responsibility and served a hard sentence, and now he’s eager to be granted the parole he believes he deserves (and probably does). But first he has to get through prison administrator Jack (Robert DeNiro: Machete), a cold, sterile man who ignores his wife (Frances Conroy: The Tale of Despereaux) and appears to have nothing in his life beyond listening to bleak god-talk on the radio, stuff about how everyone deserves to go to hell because we’re all inherently sinners and such. When things start looking bad for Stone’s prospects, he sics his wife, Lucetta (Milla Jovovich: Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D), on Jack, a preposterously obvious bit of manipulative coercion. The absurdity comes not from DeNiro or Jovovich, who are just fine. Nope, something important is missing here: perhaps from the anticlimactic third act, or perhaps from how director John Curran (The Painted Veil) handles the frankly weird juxtapositions of Angus MacLachlan’s (Junebug) anemic script, such as Stone’s witnessing of a brutal prison murder with Lucetta’s hamfisted attempts to seduce Jack. Whatever Stone intends to impart here — and throughout — is lost in all the artsy shambling.

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