"Too Slow, Overlong, Shallow, Foul-Mouthed, and Woke"
What You Need To Know:
STILLWATER is a character study, a suspense thriller and a leftist political drama. It features many touching moments with the French woman’s cute 8-year-old daughter. Also, Bill prays to Jesus before every meal (sometimes with other people) and prays with his daughter several times. However, he has a dark past, sometimes lies, eventually sleeps with the single mother, and does a bad thing to clear his daughter. STILLWATER also has lots of strong obscenities and is too slow, overlong and soft. Finally, it contains a shallow, slanderous, leftist message attacking white people in America and France for being racist. STILLWATER doesn’t depict Matt Damon’s character as overtly racist, however.
STILLWATER is a character study laced with a leftist political slant and suspense thriller formulas about an unemployed oil worker from Oklahoma who travels to Marseilles, France to help his young adult daughter, who’s been in prison for five years for the murder of her lesbian lover, which she claims she didn’t commit. STILLWATER features some good acting and positive elements, but it’s overlong, poorly paced, slow, and jumbled, with lots of strong foul language, a brief bedroom scene, homosexual references, and a sly but shallow, false, slanderous, and offensive leftist narrative against America and against white people.
The movie begins by introducing Bill Baker, a laid-off construction worker in Stillwater, Okla., working part-time to clear debris from a recent tornado and having a job interview. It also introduces his mother, who’s sickly and stuck to an oxygen tank. In addition to being hard-working, Bill is a praying man who believes in Jesus Christ. Suddenly, Bill packs his bags, flies to Marseilles and checks in at a hotel. In the hallway, he meets an 8-year-old French girl named Maya.
Slowly, the movie reveals that, because his mother is sickly, it’s now up to Bill to visit his estranged daughter, Allison, who’s stuck in a hot Marseilles prison for murdering her lesbian French lover, Lina. Alison claims she’s innocent, however, and gives Bill a letter, written in French, to hand personally to her female lawyer. Bill gives the letter to the lawyer, who says the letter claims that a French professor ran into a girl at a party who told him she met a young Frenchman of Arab descent named Akim who told her he stabbed a girl five years ago. All along, Allison has said that a young man named Akim stole her purse and probably is the one who used her apartment key in the purse to break into the apartment and ended up stabbing Allison’s lover. The lawyer says she can’t investigate a claim that’s based on hearsay. She advises Bill not to give his daughter false hope.
When he returns to the prison to visit Allison, Bill lies to her and says that the lawyer has agreed to investigate the new information. Using help from the young girl Maya’s mother, who is an actress named Virginie, Bill starts to investigate the information on his own. With her help, he finds the girl who talked to the professor, but she’s too scared to help, because Akim lives in a dangerous Arab, Muslim section in town, in one of those large housing projects built by the French government. Maya’s mother helps Bill look up the girl’s social media accounts. On one of them, they find photos from the other party where the girl said she talked to Akim.
Bill shows the photos to Allison, and she locates a photo of Akim, a light skinned Arab with shoulder-length curly hair and soccer/baseball cap. So, Bill takes the photo and starts asking people in and around the housing project if they’ve seen the man in the photo. No one recognizes the photo until Bill runs into a group of thugs in a concrete area next to the housing project. They start harassing him and it ends up in a fight. The young men soon are kicking Bill as he lays on the ground. At that moment, Akim shows up, riding a motorcycle, and the young men asks him why the white American guy has his photo. Of course, Akim gets spooked, and he rides away on his motorcycle. The thugs dump an unconscious Bill at a deserted gas station.
The next time Bill shows up at the prison to visit Allison, he’s still got wounds from the fight with the young thugs. Bill confesses to Allison what happened, including the fact that her lawyer didn’t really want to investigate the new information in her letter. She becomes incredibly irate because, now, Akim will be harder to find than ever. So, she cuts off all ties with her father.
Four months later, however, Bill is still in Marseilles. He’s got a part-time construction job and is living with Virginie and Maya, sleeping on a futon couch. As part of a bargain with Virginie, he helps pay the rent, fixes things around the apartment and picks up Maya from school while Virginie rehearses a play with a local theater group.
As Bill’s relationship with these two people grows, information about Bill and Virginie’s past are revealed. Also, several questions arise. Will Bill and Virginie become lovers? Will Allison forgive her father? Will Bill locate Akim again and bring him to justice so he can free his daughter from prison?
As noted above, STILLWATER is partly a character study, partly a suspense thriller and partly a leftist political drama. The movie’s best parts are the funny, touching and simple dramatic scenes between Bill the laconic but hard-working Christian man, Maya and Maya’s compassionate mother. They help transform Bill into a more sociable, more likeable and less guarded man. However, there’s a dark side to Bill and his past. Eventually, for example, the movie reveals that, in his younger years, Bill had an alcohol problem and became a petty criminal after Allison’s mother died when she was young. Thus, over the years, Bill and Allison became estranged. The movie also reveals Maya’s father doesn’t live in Marseilles, and Maya was just the result of a fling her mother had. Also, in one sequence, Allison gets a one-day furlough from prison, and Bill takes her with him to have dinner with Maya and her mother. Allison is impressed with her father’s apparent newfound maturity, but she warns Maya’s mother in a private moment that her father is an unreliable person. Sadly, Allison’s advice turns out to be correct, but it also turns out that Allison isn’t telling the whole truth about what happened with Akim. This is where the movie’s suspense thriller qualities come to the foreground.
Interspersed with these two aspects is a leftwing political story. For example, taken as a whole, Bill’s story in STILLWATER is a story of how a troubled working class guy from the conservative state of Oklahoma becomes alienated from his conservative roots. At the end of the movie, when a chastened Bill returns home to Oklahoma, he tells his daughter he no longer recognizes his place of origin. At other points in the movie, comments are made about the white “racists” in France who don’t like the Arabs and Muslims who’ve emigrated to their country. For example, when Bill and Virginie interview a white bar owner about the social media photos, before Allison identifies Akim, Virginie becomes offended by the man’s “racist” comments about Arabs. The man says he’d be happy to identify any of the young men in the photo as Akim, because all the Arabs are despicable people and should be in jail. Hearing the man’s comments, she walks away and tells Bill she refuses to talk to the “racist” man anymore. Bill tells her she shouldn’t get so upset, adding that he runs into such people all the time in Oklahoma. Thus, the movie leaves viewers with the impression that average white people in Oklahoma and average white people in France tend to be stupid racists. Of course, white actresses like Virginie are more “sophisticated” and “enlightened,” or “woke,” and they side with non-white immigrants in France and America. In another scene, all of Virginie’s friends wrongly suppose that Bill voted for Donald Trump in 2016, but Bill sets them straight. He tells them he couldn’t vote at all because he’s an ex-felon and ex-felons can’t vote in most states in America, including Oklahoma. Turning the white guy from conservative Oklahoma into an ex-felon seems like leftwing overkill. On the plus side, the movie doesn’t seem to be attacking Bill’s faith in Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, the three strands described above turn STILLWATER into an overlong (the movie clocks in at 140 minutes), slow and sometimes artsy melodrama. Also, some of the movie’s plot points and dialogue don’t make sense or are pretty ignorant. For instance, at one point, Bill surprises Virginie’s friends when he tells them he owns not one but two guns back home, a shotgun and a Glock handgun. Don’t the filmmakers know that, just as ex-felons can’t vote in Oklahoma, they also can’t own guns? Also, [SPOILER ALERT] Allison eventually admits she was involved in Akim’s decision to break into their apartment. She tells her father, however, that she certainly never meant for Lina to be killed. This development doesn’t make sense. If she was involved, wouldn’t Akim spill the beans if the police find him and arrest him? Furthermore, what’s to stop him from lying to the police and telling them that Allison put him up to the whole thing? Another thing that detracts from this development’s credibility is a line in the movie which says that nothing was stolen from the apartment in question, a fact that led the police and the jury or judge to believe that Allison was guilty of her lesbian lover’s homicide.
Ironically, the lesbian, homosexual subplots in STILLWATER actually don’t seem to help the leftist case for acceptance and celebration of LGBT lifestyles. In the movie’s story, there are two lesbian lovers, but one of them is described as promiscuous and cheats on the other woman. Even so, the other woman is still grieving the death of her lesbian lover, despite feeling that her dead lover took advantage of her and humiliated her. Thus, one of the lesbian lovers sounds like a despicable person, and the other one seems like a gullible fool. How is that a positive portrayal?
Ultimately, therefore, the divided narrative focus in STILLWATER undermines some good acting and messes up the movie’s pacing. The movie’s suspense aspects also need some work. They’re not as compelling as they should be. In addition, the movie’s political narrative is typically politically correct, superficial, leftist, anti-American nonsense. It proves that the filmmakers and the actors don’t really understand America, politics and culture like they probably think they do. Finally, STILLWATER contains lots of strong foul language and a brief bedroom scene between an unmarried man and woman. The movie’s most redemptive elements are Bill’s loving relationship with the cute little girl, his commitment to his daughter’s welfare, his work ethic, and his belief in Jesus. However, MOVIEGUIDE® finds STILLWATER to be excessive and unacceptable overall as well as overlong, poorly paced, jumbled, and politically superficial. Although the movie doesn’t seem to attack Bill’s Christian faith, his faith also doesn’t seem to be much more than a commitment to pray to Jesus. He prays to Jesus before every meal, sometimes with other people in France. He also prays with his daughter in two scenes and is shown praying with her behind a glass. As a result, Bill’s Christian faith comes off as a minor, though overt, device in the movie’s attempt to present a character study of a working class person from a conservative “red state” in America. It could be said, however, that Bill’s more positive characteristics are related to his prayer life. For example, although Bill lies two or three times, eventually sleeps with Maya’s mother, and ends up doing a bad thing in the movie, he’s very kind and loving to Maya, he has a shy humility, he wants to do the right thing for his daughter, he’s clearly not a white racist like the French bar owner in the movie, and he can be very compassionate. So, although STILLWATER has some strong political and moral problems, it’s not abhorrent. It’s just a bit too woke and slanderous. Also, if Bill were truly committed to Jesus, wouldn’t he propose marriage to Maya’s mother before sleeping with her? His growing relationship with her and Maya would seem to demand it, if the filmmakers were truly interested in making a serious, accurate movie about a redeemed Christian father from Oklahoma unexpectedly finding himself falling for a pretty Frenchwoman with a lovable daughter. Back to the drawing board, people!
By the way, STILLWATER is loosely based on the wrongful murder conviction of American Amanda Knox in Italy. Knox, however, has condemned the movie for allegedly trying to make a profit from her wrongful conviction and for allegedly distorting the facts in her case. “By fictionalizing away my innocence, my total lack of involvement, by erasing the role of the authorities in my wrongful conviction,” Knox said, “[Director] McCarthy reinforces an image of me as a guilty and untrustworthy person” – see Amanda Knox blasts Matt Damon flick ‘Stillwater,’ claims it’s cashing in on her wrongful conviction | Fox News.