• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

We are inching along, but not as quickly as we (or you) would like. If you have already donated, thank you so much. If you haven’t had a chance, consider skipping the coffee this week and drop CounterPunch $5 or more. We provide our content for free, but it costs us a lot to do so. Every dollar counts.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Walking Invisibly in the American Crowd

“Stone” takes a hybrid Norman Rockwell-Grant Wood portrait of an aging midwestern couple, adds two Quentin Tarantino characters who excel in manipulating and offers a disturbing cinematic slice of real America: repression, religion, lust, violence and escape into seedy mysticism.

Young Jack Mabry (Robert de Niro) watches golf on TV, ignoring his dissatisfied wife trying to get his attention. She tells him twice she plans to leave him. He jumps from his chair, races upstairs, grabs their sleeping child and threatens to throw her the window she leaves. She submits.

Cut. Grey-haired, wrinkled and smug Mabry, about to retire as prison parole officer, meets Stone (Edward Norton), an arsonist — his last case. Stone whines a self-righteous tale of having served his time, taken his punishment, and therefore “I deserve parole. I’ve been rehabilitated.” His corn-rowed hair, prison tattoos and con-like body posture negate his words. Mabry has spent years listening to criminals mouthing prison baloney to persuade him they merit parole. He doesn’t listen; he’s heard their lies before. Stone challenges him. What makes you better than me? “I don’t break the law.” Mabry self-righteously responds.

During his unpersuasive rap to get Mabry’s endorsement Stone adds shockingly intimate information. The shrewd convict notices Mabry’s discomfort as he rejoices in describing salacious details of his sex life with his wife, Lucetta (Milla Jovovich).

Having planted the seed of lust in the repressed Mabry, Stone convinces his wife, Lucetta, a distractingly attractive sex kitten, to contact the tight-assed Mabry. Lucetta’s childlike “openness” allows for an easy seduction of the sex-starved parole officer.

She displays convincing sincerity as she lusts with Mabry, as she does when supervising young children — her job. She relates to kids because she has not grown up – except in her body.  The almost-retired parole officer does not suspect this innocence and concern for both him and her husband derive from a borderline personality that thrives on parental praise.

The affair, however, has unsettled the fragile façade built by the Mabrys. His wife, Madelyn (Frances Conroy), perceives something wrong with Mabry’s odd hours and increased remoteness. It unsettles her routine of booze, cigarettes and religious rituals that cover excruciating suffering nourished over decades of living with her inaccessible husband. In their isolated farmhouse without a farm, they sit on their porch or recite empty biblical passages before meals. Behind their façade of religious serenity lies scarcely controlled fury.

Stone’s scam to get Mabry to write a favorable parole report begins to work thanks to what Robin Williams might have said of Mabry: God gave man “a penis and a brain, but only enough blood to run one at a time.” As Mabry succumbs, Stone also changes. He inadvertently witnesses an act of prison violence. In the dead man’s eyes Stone seems to grasp the notion of compassion.

He realizes he cannot endure in the league of those who share the prison cells. He falls for “Zukangor,” a “spiritual” method of finding harmony, by turning sound into meditation and thus achieving soul purification — and reincarnation.

His epiphany, however, also changes his relationship with Lucetta, who adored Stone’s dominating, criminal personality – especially when he praised her. Indeed, she used sex to get Mabry’s favorable parole report, an activity she uses routinely to get men’s admiration.

Mabry begrudgingly submits his favorable report for Stone – against all his best judgment. But Lucetta does not receive Stone’s praise. Instead, thanks to his new religion, he has become distant towards her as he spouts spiritual babble. His once exciting vibrations have become boringly serene.

Mabry drives to and from work listening to religious radio. He releases energy by driving golf balls in an empty field. He and Mady attend Catholic Church regularly. Typical, well-adjusted, upright, law abiding and moral Americans. Not!

These characters, Republicans and Democrats, belong to “the great American public.” A criminal and parole officer, school teacher and house wife, have buried sick and evil acts that subconsciously drive their lives –a far cry from the American dream, unless you count nightmares. Mabry cannot free himself from the demons of needs he has repressed. His wife cannot drink away her anger. Stone, for all is wise-guy con-man attributes, begins to feel the need for some inner harmony in the prison atmosphere that offers harsh sound and ugly sights.

Lucetta’s apparent innocence, the delight in using her body, gives the appearance of having risen above the evil, egoistic motives and malice that grips the others. She stands as the apparent living and natural answer to the babbling radio preachers harping on sin and indeed to the basic values operating to curtail freedom in the land of the free. But her own chaos – a child in an adult’s body – belies this heroic stature. Like all the film’s characters, Lucetta strives for the unobtainable: security and freedom, stability and passion.

Director John Curran and screenwriter Angus MacLachlan weave the complicated characters into a searching collage of the modern American psyche. The surface composure of the Mabrys camouflages issues that confound millions – who die without resolving them. They all walk invisibly in the crowd.

 

 

More articles by:

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 23, 2019
Kenneth Surin
Western China and the New Silk Road
W. T. Whitney
Stirrings of Basic Change Accompany Protests in Haiti
Louisa Willcox
Inviting the Chief of the Grizzlies to Our Feast
Jonathan Cook
The Democrats Helped Cultivate the Barbarism of ISIS
Dave Lindorff
Military Spending’s Out of Control While Slashing It Could Easily Fund Medicare for All
John Kendall Hawkins
With 2020 Hindsight, the Buffoonery Ahead
Jesse Hagopian
The Chicago Teachers Strike: “Until We Get What Our Students Deserve”
Saad Hafiz
America’s Mission to Remake Afghanistan Has Failed
Victor Grossman
Thoughts on the Impeachment of Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
Celebrity Protesters and Extinction Rebellion
John Horning
Spotted Owls and the National Christmas Tree
Dave Lindorff
Moment of Truth on Military Spending in the NY Times
October 22, 2019
Gary Leupp
The Kurds as U.S. Sacrificial Lambs
Robert Fisk
Trump and the Retreat of the American Empire
John Feffer
Trump’s Endless Wars
Marshall Auerback
Will the GOP Become the Party of Blue-Collar Conservatism?
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Trump’s Fake Withdrawal From Endless War
Dean Baker
Trump Declares Victory in China Trade War
Patrick Bond
Bretton Woods Institutions’ Neoliberal Over-Reach Leaves Global Governance in the Gutter
Robert Hunziker
XR Co-Founder Discusses Climate Emergency
John W. Whitehead
Terrorized, Traumatized and Killed: The Police State’s Deadly Toll on America’s Children
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A World Partnership for Ecopolitical Health and Security
Binoy Kampmark
The Decent Protester: a Down Under Creation
Frances Madeson
Pro-Democracy Movement in Haiti Swells Despite Police Violence
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Challenges Logging and Burning Project in Methow Valley
Chelli Stanley
Change the Nation You Live In
Elliot Sperber
Humane War 
October 21, 2019
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Wolf at the Door: Adventures in Fundraising With Cockburn
Rev. William Alberts
Myopic Morality: The Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Sheldon Richman
Let’s Make Sure the Nazis Killed in Vain
Horace G. Campbell
Chinese Revolution at 70: Twists and Turns, to What?
Jim Kavanagh
The Empire Steps Back
Ralph Nader
Where are the Influentials Who Find Trump Despicable?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Poll Projection: Left-Leaning Jagmeet Singh to Share Power with Trudeau in Canada
Thomas Knapp
Excuses, Excuses: Now Hillary Clinton’s Attacking Her Own Party’s Candidates
Brian Terrell
The United States Air Force at Incirlik, Our National “Black Eye”
Paul Bentley
A Plea for More Cynicism, Not Less: Election Day in Canada
Walter Clemens
No Limits to Evil?
Robert Koehler
The Collusion of Church and State
Kathy Kelly
Taking Next Steps Toward Nuclear Abolition
Charlie Simmons
How the Tax System Rewards Polluters
Chuck Collins
Who is Buying Seattle? The Perils of the Luxury Real Estate Boom
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail