You'll probably be surprised to find out that Stone is a project
which undoubtedly began with serious aspirations toward picking up some
hardware during award season. The stars are arguably the greatest actors of
their respective generations: Edward Norton and Robert DeNiro. Each of the men
is given something at which he excels.
Norton gets a chance to disappear into a unique and interesting character,
DeNiro returns to forgotten form by showing off his considerable dramatic
chops. Hey, maybe I'm just grateful to see him in a film without "Analyze" or
"Focker" in the title. Despite superb performances from both men and the
script's willingness to take on some weighty issues, the film came and went
without fanfare, earning neither box office success nor critical acclaim.
So what happened?
I could prattle on about why the film disappeared without a
trace. It has plenty of flaws.
For one thing, the direction is pedestrian because the visual
presentation consists almost entirely of one-on-one conversations between
people sitting in mundane, claustrophobic rooms. It is essentially a talky
stage play for four characters, and there are a lot of facial close-ups.
For another, the film can never seem to decide whether it is a
drama or a thriller, and the few scenes which could have some dramatic
tension seem to be flat and underplayed, probably on purpose, for reasons
which will become evident as you continue reading.
For a third, it has a couple of scenes that don't seem to
connect to the rest of the film. My guess is that the connective tissue was
lost when other scenes were deleted, but that's just conjecture and I could
easily be wrong. It may have been designed that way in order to puzzle
and/or mislead the viewer. You'll soon see why I have admitted that
None of those negative elements are really at the core of what
will make the film fail or succeed in your eyes. On balance, I would say it is
a good film, even a distinguished one in certain ways, and you may love it.
But you may also hate it, depending on your personal attitude toward ambiguity
in the narrative process. There is nothing inherently wrong with ambiguity, of
course. To the contrary, many people argue that properly managed indirection
is a hallmark of truly great art, and that a brilliant artist should engage
the thought process of his admirers rather than spoon-feeding them a solution.
Endless dissertations have been written on Hamlet's madness, for example, and
many of the most memorable films, like Inception or Blade Runner or Memento,
are cryptic. Was Deckerd a replicant in Blade Runner? It is ambiguous. Even
the film's creators disagree, and they cover the full spectrum of opinions on
this subject. Because of that ambiguity we get to enter the creative process
in a real or imagined conversation with the creators and among ourselves. But
there's a big downside to being cryptic. Although ambiguity is a powerful
weapon, it also has a tendency to misfire, and only the greatest artists can
successfully negotiate the difficult line between being subtly delphic and
being befuddled. Ambiguity done well is mysterious and alluring, but when
mismanaged it is annoying and confusing. Furthermore, the human tolerance for
deliberately planned uncertainty varies greatly from individual to individual.
That assertion brings us back to the topic at hand, namely the film listed in
the rubric above. I'd suggest that no matter how highyour tolerance level for
the equivocal, this film will test your patience. It is perhaps the most
ambiguous film I have ever seen.
The story's set-up is simple. Edward Norton is a convicted
arsonist trying to earn a parole and DeNiro is his stodgy, humorless parole
officer. Norton is not sure whether he can convince DeNiro of the merits of
his case, so he assigns his sexy, devoted wife (Milla) to do whatever it
takes to seal the deal. DeNiro has always been rigorously professional in the
past, but he is a joyless man who is starting to think he has nothing to live
for, and he is on the verge of retirement anyway, so he figures "what the
hell," and caves in to Milla's advances. At first he recommends Norton's
parole, not because of his sex with Milla, but because he becomes genuinely
convinced that Norton has reformed. At least that's how he tries to salve his
conscience. He finally comes to conclude that Norton has been conning him, and
he further realizes that Norton might use his freedom to gain some kind of
twisted revenge on society or on DeNiro himself. Unfortunately, the parole
officer's innate integrity kicks in too slowly, too late to prevent the wheels
of justice from grinding out a release for Norton.
At that point there are some "thriller" elements which I won't
spoil. The remainder of the movie consists of DeNiro battling his fears.
The unique thing about this film is that there is not a single
plot element that can be described with certainty.
Does Norton genuinely experience a religious epiphany, or is he
simply running an elaborate con?
Does Milla really start to develop affection for DeNiro, or is
she merely manipulating him?
Does DeNiro decide to try to keep Norton in jail out of fear
for his own safety, out of conscience, or because he wants to keep having
sex with Milla?
Does Norton cause an accident to DeNiro, as DeNiro logically
concludes, or was that incident caused by natural causes, as DeNiro's wife
Why is there a scene of Milla having joyless sex with an
Why is there a scene in which Norton witnesses another convict
being beaten to death?
Why does Norton stare at a mural of a deer while smiling
Does DeNiro's wife ever find out about Milla?
Does DeNiro's wife lie about the natural causes?
How does the tension between the men finally get resolved?
Beats me. I think I can answer most of those questions
satisfactorily, but I would be basing my answers on the part of the script I
wrote in my head. The film never really comes out and clarifies anything. You could make counter arguments to every one of my
contentions, and there would be no clear way to resolve our dispute.
The director ends the film by thumbing his nose at conventional
narrative. DeNiro is in his office cleaning out his desk for retirement. He
shuffles a few papers wordlessly, looks around the room, then looks at the
clock and the film cuts to black, as if they simply ran out of film with more
story to tell. The credits roll.
What can I tell you? That ending, and the film in general, crafts
a deliberate balancing act between engaging brilliance and provocative
irritation. It's really your own attitude toward that balance which will
ultimately determine whether you consider this film a worthwhile investment of
Rotten Tomatoes 46%
Box office: art house distribution (125 theaters) - total gross
$1.8 million. It never made the top twenty films at any time.
marvelous, and this time we see her in 1080p!
Catch the deluxe version of Other
Crap in real time, with all the bells and whistles,
(Reverse chronological order)
Amy Adams in The Fighter, 2010. Not nude, but in a transparent bra.
Kerry Condon in The Last Station, 2009, HD
Hitman, 2007, 1080p
Anna Maria Muhe
Was nutzt die Liebe in Gedanken, 2004
The Bouncer, 2003
Delphine Rollin in A Model Employee,
2002 (Samples below)
Simone Bendix in Mit liv som Bent,
2001 (Sample below)
Katharina die Grosse, 1995, HD
Andrea L'Arronge in Clara, 1993
Hjellp min datter vil giftes, 1993
Helena Egelund in Landsbyen, 1991
Camilla Soeberg in Tro haab og
kaerlighed, 1984 (Sample below)
Marche a l'ombre, 1984
Marche a l'ombre
Marche a l'ombre
Andrea L'Arronge and Elisabeth Endriss
Der Spot, 1981 (samples below, Endriss right)
Susan Glanville, Monika Ringwald, and Lindy Benson in Intimate
Eatwell in Intimate Games
Davenport in Intimate Games
Felicity Devonshire, Heather Deeley, Suzy Mandel, Anna Bergman, and
Maria St.Claire, in Intimate Games
Here's the Menounos lip-slip again,
this time in HD
Here's Chloe Sevigny - pretty good
looks at her butt almost uncovered
Frankie Ingrassia in Still Waters,
Neriah Davis in Meatballs 4, 1992
Kristi Ducati in Meatballs 4, 1992
Paige French in Meatballs 4, 1992
Lauren Hayes in Meatballs 4, 1992
Miche Straube in Meatballs 4, 1992
Christy Thom in Meatballs 4, 1992