Haunted Flower’s DVD Review of Mystic River

Mystic River DVD Review
2 Disc Widescreen Edition

- March 4, 2010 -

Mystic River cleaned up and won Academy awards for Best Actor – Sean Penn, and Best Supporting Actor – Tim Robbins and was nominated for everything else you can think of. It did not, however win Best Picture. Directed by Clint Eastwood from the novel written by Dennis Lehane, Mystic River is about three childhood friends who after a tragic incident grow up to be a cop, a victim, and a suspect.

This movie can feel very slow in the pacing and action. It takes a while for events to pick up and characters to start opening up. The feel of the movie and accuracy helps set the location very well. Everything is dark and in blues like the river. The ensemble cast is a big who’s who of a generation in Hollywood. Since Clint Eastwood prefers to get everything done in one or two shots, you know actors had to step up their game and that makes the performances a little more impressive.

I’m a fan of Tim Robbins, mostly because of The Shawshank Redemption. He just always finds a way to look so…….haunted. He plays a quiet, kinda crazy guy who was sexually abused as child when he was kidnapped and held prisoner in a cellar for four days. Now he’s grown with a wife and child and comes home at 3 a.m. one night with blood on his hands. His facial expressions and tone of voice are so eerie. His character is a pathological liar because the time he told the truth when his friends lied, he was made into a victim. Now in any threatening situation, he lies to stay safe and it makes him even more of a suspect.

Sean Penn’s daughter played by Emmy Rossum (who is beautiful and innocent as always, this was her first notable role in a big film) is found to have been murdered. Penn does a heart-breaking job screaming over and over again, “Is that my daughter in there?” Honestly, he gets it in about ten times and has to be restrained by like seven guys to avoid going to see her body where they found it. He brings out the raw emotion at the drop of a hat and his performance is very compelling.

Their other childhood friend, Kevin Bacon is one of the investigating cops along with Laurence Fishburne and they (of course) try to piece together the puzzle and find out what happened. There’s a side mystery of his silent wife who calls him and says nothing which is sad but unessential to the core of the film. Bacon walking the line between victim’s parent and suspect being his childhood friends is quite the feat. While they are not close any longer, under every conversation is a vast canyon of history that is addressed in subtext.

Marcia Gay Harden plays Tim Robbins’s wife and stays in the background looking worried and scared most of the movie. Laura Linney plays a great grieving stepmother and makes a big character turn that comes out of left field at the end of the movie. To avoid any spoilers for those who haven’t seen it, the movie really could have ended after the main action when Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon were talking in the street. But no, it continues to show more aftermath conversations and a parade. I guess it is to set up the audience choosing in their minds what happened to the characters later, but it’s really so ambiguous it feels like overkill. The comparison of marital relationships from which is most loving to which is most likely to last is interestingly ironic.

This movie is good….but it just isn’t THAT good. It has some beautiful individual performances but as a package, loses my interest at points. I guess the Academy and I have different standards……then again, it didn’t win Best Picture now did it?

DVD Extras:

There are two featurettes, “Beneath the Surface” and “From Page to Screen” that go over the casting of the movie, production details, Eastwood’s one-take style of directing, and the accuracies of where they shot the movie. The writer points out that they started shooting about a block and half away from where he wrote the book. Also the writer was very concerned that all these Hollywood actors would sound different than how he heard his characters in his head, but that they mastered their accents and characters well to his imagination. There are full-length interviews from “The Charlie Rose Show” that into detail with Clint Eastwood, Kevin Bacon, and Tim Robbins. No Sean Penn? The part of the extras I enjoyed the most was commentary with Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon. I always enjoy actor commentary the most since I have a background in acting in theatre and film myself. They break down some of the scenes and reveal a little more about motivations for why certain things were done and are just interesting to listen to if you are fans of their work. This edition also includes a complete CD soundtrack which I did not have the pleasure of checking out because the copy I had was from the library and didn’t include it. Bleah!