Friday, April 19, 2013

Mystic River: There are threads in our lives ...

... You pull one, and everything else gets affected.

"We bury our sins. We wash them clean."
It's already a classic and rightfully so. The story that introduced me to the genius of Dennis Lehane and shed new light on Clint Eastwood's talent. It's one of the very few movies that led me to read the book. I usually do it the other way around but this story just spoke to me in a way that made me wonder: if the movie is so wonderful, how amazing must be the book?
And I wasn't disappointed. More than that, this is one of the movies that in my opinion follows the book the closest. As much as it is possible, given that Mystic River is a very complex book and quite a hefty volume. The story itself seems quite simple. Sean Devine, Jimmy Markum (Marcus in the book) and Dave Boyle are three friends playing hockey on a Boston street in 1975. Their friendship is abruptly stopped when Dave foolishly sits into a stranger's car, believing him to be a man of the law. The car drives away and Dave comes back after four days, sexually abused and scarred for life. But abuse is one of those things that aren't talked about but should be. Twenty-five years later all the boys are married men with their own problems and demons. Sean is a cop (staying at Heartbreak hotel), Jimmy is in his second marriage, walking on the brink of the law and Dave is a quiet father of a young boy. Then Jimmy's 19 year old daughter Katie is found murdered and Sean is in charge of the case. The hunt for the girl's killer begins but it will bring out so many past demons and troubles that you cannot even imagine. There is a secret behind every corner and Sean Devine and his partner Whitey Powers (yes, Lehane knows how to pick his characters' names!) leave no stone unturned. While they're putting the puzzle together, Jimmy is getting restless, convinced that they are not doing a good enough job. He is intent on keeping his promise to Katie - that he will catch her killer and kill him. Meanwhile Dave's wife Celeste, the brilliant Marcia Gay Harden, oscar nominated for this role) Jimmy's wife's cousin, has a secret that she's been holding on to and it's eating her alive. On the night of Katie's murder, her husband came home bloody and shaking. Now it's up to her to decide who she should tell that and whether or not she should trust Dave's explanation. The clock is ticking, the snowball effect is in full speed and the atmosphere is getting more and more tense, nervous and dreadful. The end result will shock and shatter everyone.
Combining the aspect of the book and the movie, let me say that this cast is perfect. No one would do a better former (and current) bad boy father than Sean Penn (Jimmy). Kevin Bacon is ideal as the jilted husband, waiting patiently for his wife to forgive him and come home to him (Sean). And Tim Robbins who definitely doesn't make enough movies is remarkable as the damaged Dave Boyle, the tall broken giant who even walks like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders and yet hisses like a snake if backed into a corner.
"The reality is we're still 11 year old boys locked in a cellar imagining
what our lives would have been if we'd escaped." - Sean Devine
This movie is like a song. It flows and shows all aspects of these men's lives and how they have been influenced by that horrible car incident years ago. No one really knows the whole story of Dave's captivity which makes him more of a mystery and a bigger suspect. The motion picture score is so much a part of the movie that without it the story would probably wobble. But Clint Eastwood left nothing to chance. He didn't win an oscar for this movie, was more rewarded for the following year's Million Dollar Baby but Robbins and Penn both took away the lead actor and supporting actor's oscars, respectively, and became the first duo in a movie to achieve that since Charlton Heston and Hugh Griffith for Ben-Hur (1959).
Most notably commented and talked about scene in the movie is definitely Sean Penn's "Is that my daughter in there?!" breakdown. Many characterize it as over-acting and it wasn't rare that people even laughed during the scene at the movies. But Sean, who asked for a tank of oxygen to be ready at the scene in case of emergency, tapped into Jimmy's pain. For anyone who read the book and knows the character of Jimmy Markum (Marcus), knows that Jimmy adored his eldest daughter, she was the apple of his eye and the heart of his heart. And I am sure anyone who has a daughter can confirm that the pain which he was spewing out of his system, was real and authentic. Even his mimic and his behavior echoed Jimmy's.

In the book, Dennis Lehane makes you want to be a part of this dysfunctional society and in the movie Clint Eastwood makes Boston seem like the place where you might just want to live. And that's probably how Lehane wants his love for his hometown to be viewed. The ending after the ending is particularly haunting. To see who actually pulls the strings and who is the freakiest of them all? It's horrifying.
All in all, this story is one of those whodunnit thrillers that are good at their core for being what they're supposed to be and then transcend into an amazing coming-of-age story of how time transforms everything and how one small moment can change your entire life.

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