STILLWATER – Review by Susan Granger

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If you remember the Amanda Knox case in which she was wrongly convicted of the 2007 murder of her roommate in Perugia, Italy, the plot of Stillwater may seem vaguely familiar.

But director Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), working with Marcus Hinchey and French screenwriters Thomas Bidegain & Noe Debre, adds several new twists to the mystery.

McCarthy sets his dramatic thriller in Marseilles, France. And he tells the story from the point-of-view of oil-rig roughneck Bill Baker (Matt Damon), whose estranged, twentysomething daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) continues to maintain her innocence long after she’s been imprisoned for murdering her unfaithful girlfriend while studying abroad.

Arriving in the exotic Mediterranean port from Stillwater, Oklahoma, to visit Allison and to help overturn her conviction, Baker is befriended by Virginie (Camille Cottin), a single mother with a precocious nine year-old daughter, Maya (Lilou Siuvaud).

Tired of feeling helpless, Baker knows he’s made mistakes as a father, which is why he’s so desperate to exonerate Allison. Stoic yet determined, Baker’s skills are limited to carpentry and home maintenance.

Yet he manages to overcome cultural differences and his lack of proficiency in the French language by engaging the help of others while confronting many social, racial and political pitfalls.

Was Allison’s case influenced because she was in a lesbian relationship with a French-Arabic woman? Was it sensationalized because she was an American?

Often underrated as an actor, Matt Damon burst onto the Hollywood scene as the Oscar-winning co-screenwriter with Ben Affleck of Good Will Hunting, coinciding with Steven Spielberg’s casting him as the titular W.W.II Everyman in Saving Private Ryan.

Then came the “Jason Bourne” franchise, along with The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Departed, Invictus, “Contagion,” and The Martian, among others. Now, Damon subtly embodies this rugged, taciturn loner, a recovering addict, with just the suggestion of violence beneath the surface.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Stillwater splashes in with a solid 7, playing in local theaters.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.