Here I sit scratching my head over all falderal. I mean, Mystic River was a good movie. But it did not live up to the hype, which is not its fault. Still, had I gone in cold, I would have said it was medium good, say three and a half stars on a five star scale.
I waited a while to watch it, waiting for the right mood, etc., because I just cannot waltz into movies where I know a child dies, or is even just hurt badly, anymore. And that's been since I had one, not since I lost one. So, the story's gotta be pretty spectacular for me to go on that little walk through hell. In other words, it's gotta be on the level of Sophie's Choice for me to endure that kind of a plotline.
The fault line of "too far" vs "just enough" is almost directly over The Sixth Sense. When you don't know what's going on in that movie, Haley Joel Osment's extreme distress is heard to bear, but when all is revealed, it's actually about the perfect tension level. As a matter of fact, all of Shyamalan's movies are like that. He hits the perfect note so that parents don't have to squirm (too much - or at least for child-in-peril reasons) throughout the movie.
Over the line by just a redhead is Mel Gibson's Ransom. Even though the boy is OK eventually, the fact that he endures what he does makes it hard to take. And when Mel goes for the cheap seats and freaks during one memorable scene on a balcony overlooking the city, his agony is so palpable it's almost too real. I nearly puked in empathy.
What got praised in Mystic River was the acting. And, by golly, it was just OK. Nothing too phenomenal, imvho. I still think Mel's anguish outdid Spicoli's - I mean, Sean's - by a pretty fair stretch. Of course, Meryl's (Sophie's) is the current high water mark, which will most likely never be washed away. Like a lot of folks have said when discussing the acting in the flick, perhaps Kevin Bacon will be recognized as someone as good as the rest of the other "A-listers" and thus get more heavyweight roles - which will make the game "Seven Degrees of Bacon" too easy to play. Tim Robbins officially looks older than his SO, Susan, which is amazing as she is over a decade his senior. Kind of makes you wonder what in the hell happened to him.
So, I liked Mystic River, but did not come away with a lasting impression. If you were to mention the title to me in about 5 years, I'll probably wonder vaguely if it's a song I heard once.
And now we go into the spoiler section. I don't have any postscript after the spoiler part, so surf away now if you've not seen Mystic Sniveler.
**** MONDO SPOILER ALERT ****
Also what mitigated the child-in-peril part was the girl was 19 years old and about to elope to Vegas with her love muffin. The previews give you the impression it's a little kid who's killed. And yes, no matter their age, your children are still your babies and you will care as much, but for fiction it just has a different tenor once they've reached adulthood.
Also, it comes out that her murder was simply a fuck-up. Two kids were playing with a handgun and somehow manage to fire it into the windshield of the girl's oncoming car, and rather than help her, the kids beat her to death to hide their tracks. The misdirection of who really killed her feels like as much of a cheap shot as the actual fatal one.
I've read a few of LeHane's stories now, and they all have that not-quite-what-you-expected flow to them, and they all produce that same sensation of being a little ripped-off by the actual outcome. I tend to prefer Nelson DeMille in this genre, as most of his have a payoff that exhilarates rather than making you mumble, "Well, hell..." to yourself.