Where I Watched It: Paramount Plus
English Audio Description?: Yes
Matt Damon stars in this odd little film about a father from Oklahoma who basically upends his life and moves to France where his daughter (Abigail Breslin) is in jail for murder. However, their system is totally different, and she’s pretty close to being able to get out. Meanwhile, she insists she’s innocent, and there’s a guy that she believes killed the victim, if only Matt Damon can find him. In the meantime, he uses his Oklahoma dialect to entrance the French population, and make a friend, even fall in love and become a surrogate father to a young girl all in the obvious juxtaposition of how he messed up the first time around (according to his daughter), but is trying this time with a girl who isn’t even his. That seems like a lot, and you are probably really wondering why the film is called Stillwater? Well, the easy answer would be to tell you Stillwater is a town in Oklahoma, but really the true meaning of the title doesn’t come into play until the end.
This is a Tom McCarthy movie, who has really done quite well for himself with meditative dramas in the past. The Station Agent and The Visitor both are sort of slow moving, but terrific films that give their leading men the chance to really showcase their talent. However, he’s likely most known for directing the Oscar winning Spotlight, and really this film is nothing like that.
Audio description here is key, and the team here did a great job. A lot is spoken in French, so unless you are fluent, you would need what you would normally get in subtitles that we can’t see. Matt Damon does well in an understated performance, but I never really liked Abigail Breslin’s performance. It’s not that her choices for the character were wrong, knowing the totality of the plot, it just seems so bizarre that she has NO accent at all. Matt Damon went deep into the Oklahoman accent, and he’s consistent throughout. When we have the few scenes in Oklahoma, everyone talks like him. Breslin’s character is a girl who grew up in Oklahoma, even going to school in Oklahoma before applying for a semester abroad program. The fact that she has no trace of an accent bothered me deeply. Years ago we gave Breslin an Oscar nomination. The very least she could do is take it seriously enough to attempt an accent.
Stillwater wanders, it meditates, and it tries to be many things. At the end, it comes together, but the journey seems longer than necessary. Matt Damon’s performance is expectedly solid, and the film is a good, just not great watch. I still recommend this, but it is not Tom McCarthy’s best film, and that’s why it was left out of the Oscar race last year.
Final Grade: B-