There’s a lot about Stone that engaged and involved me, but it also misses some of the potential marks. It felt like the crowd at Tuesday night’s New York Premiere for Stone (hosted by Overture Films and Peggy Siegal), may have shared my frustration. Stone begins like an atmospheric pulp story, not unlike director John Curran’s screenplay for Michael Winterbottom’s recent The Killer Inside Me adaptation. But rather than go for the divisive sex-and-violence in that film, Stone has some deeper spiritual thoughts in its screenplay by Angus MacLachlan (Junebug). It’s the story of a dramatic triangle between a corrections officer (Robert De Niro), a parole-eligible inmate (Edward Norton), and the inmate’s tempestuous wife (Milla Jovovich). The performances are all strong: De Niro gets to act for the first time in a long time, Norton is as good as ever, and Jovovich gives good reason to treat her as more than just a Resident Evil badass. However, the film itself becomes bogged down in a narrative thread about spirituality.
Norton’s Stone finds a path to enlightenment at the oddest moment, in a manner that leads you to believe it may just be a ploy to leave jail, but it’s not. Meanwhile, Jovovich and De Niro are having an affair hidden from De Niro’s wife (Frances Conroy) with the supposed purpose of increasing Stone’s odds of parole. As you can guess, things spiral downward for all parties, but not nearly enough. Curran and MacLachlan wrap the narrative with ideas on religion and mercy. Unfortunately, these ideas feel altogether out of place in the film. What could have been (and maybe should have been) a small-town noir thriller about jilted lovers in a prison industry, is actually a film about a spirituality that binds all of us. An opportuntity for profound exploration? Yes. An opportunity for a pulpy love triangle? Not at all. Here’s a clip from Stone, that speaks to its tension between metaphysical character study and pulp fiction:
On another note, the premiere party on Tuesday night was a great time and it was also the last big premiere for the soon-to-be-remodeled Overture Films. The party was fun, and they went out with a bang.