E.The tough “Roughnecks”, as the tirelessly working but lazy oil drills in Oklahoma are called, first had doubts when Matt Damon came up to them to do a bit of role studies. They worried that Hollywood was trying to denigrate them again, as it did back in 2012, in “Promised Land” directed by John Krasinski.
Damon had both written and acted on the script. It was about the nasty side effects of fracking, after all the livelihood of the mute painter, who first and foremost thought of their families and only afterwards of nature.
But in the end the tough men gained confidence in the Hollywood star. Because they are simple guys and believe in the good in people. After all, it has to be somewhere, so their two conservative gods preach – one to whom every dollar bill pays homage (“In God We Trust”), and the other to whom the Republicans belong (“God’s Own Party”).
Maybe it’s the same in the end? And perhaps this is precisely the reason for the renewed abuse that Damon and director Tom McCarthy (known from “Spotlight” on the “Washington Post” research into a pedophile scandal) perpetrate them in “Stillwater”: They use the white men from the lower classes as symbols of a half-past, crisis-ridden America.
A certain Kenny Baker in particular gave Damon a week-long tour through his meager life between the construction site and the burger joint. Damon Kenny’s construction worker trained himself for the role (strong, flexible arms, even stronger legs, almost immobile due to the decades of loads), slipped into his dad jeans and checked shirts, put on a goatee, put on a patriotic cap and above all got used to the-don’t-ask-questions-and-you-don’t-hear-no-lies-attitude.
Damon took on the whole outward appearance of a clumsy, clumsy, honest life. Damon even stayed with Kenny’s last name. His silent, desperate oil drill worker is called Bill Baker.
In Stillwater, Oklahoma, a lousy town that gave the film its name, Bill Baker’s body toiled. His soul, on the other hand, floats in a sad limbo. He spends his days like a zombie, looking unmoved with dark memories of times when he was drunk and harassed his family until they broke up.
There is hardly any mention of his wife. The daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) has fled to Marseille. The misfortune is on her neck, however; it is innate. Her roommate (and lover) died during her year abroad. Allison was suspected, eventually found guilty. In the presence of the film, her French is passable, in contrast to her prospects behind bars.
Something rings here: Right, Amanda Knox, the American student who was supposed to have killed her roommate in Italy in 2007, sat in prison for years and was finally cleared, the “angel with the ice eyes” or something like that, she said with relish Boulevard. McCarthy’s film is loosely based on the case. Much is similar, much radically different than at least in the official version of Knox’s life.
One can argue about whether that is ethically okay. Amanda Knox herself is not amused: “By hiding my innocence, my complete impartiality and the role of the authorities in my unjustified conviction,” she tweeted after the premiere in Cannes, “McCarthy reinforces the image of me as a guilty and unbelievable person.” In Cannes, Matt Damon also had to cry, but only with emotion to finally be in the cinema again.
He had deserved the cathartic moment sourly. Because his character is the only one who goes through a real development in the film. In the last scene – the daughter is with him – Baker looks from the old shabby porch at his familiar Stillwater and doesn’t recognize it because the whole world has changed.
In between, like his own mind in a dream that has only turned out to be a nightmare in the last half hour, he has haunted France. Apparently to free the daughter. In truth, he is setting himself free.
The bizarre Knox number only serves as a catalyst for the portrait of an American who has been lost as a representative of his country. McCarthy rewrote the script, which was already finished, under the impression of the Trump era.
One suspects: The structure of the film is just as shaky as the messy scaffolding on which Damon crawls around in Marseille to earn a few euros. The film is silent about where the work permit came from so quickly or whether he simply works black. How exactly Baker manages to get hold of the great Virginie (Camille Cottin), with whom he has surprisingly found accommodation, remains at least in the dark.
Perhaps the unsuccessful actress has been raving about “Beauty and the Beast” since she was a child and finally sees the opportunity to re-enact the film without engagement. In any case, within minutes she makes a blatant change of lover from egomaniac directing in skinny jeans to Matt Damon with ten kilos too much.
The film soon groans with sheer (meaning) heaviness. On the one hand conceptually, on the other hand through Masanobu Takayanagi’s pictures, which give the impression that they could collapse under their own weight at any time. Matt Damon didn’t train for free either; he can carry it over long distances.
Suddenly Matt Damon is Liam Neeson
The more the story is disheveled like the hairstyle of his new foster daughter (fantastic: Lilou Siauvaud), the more it dawns on the viewer that none of this matters at all, possibly least of all on the de facto genre change that is also brought on by the hair in the penultimate act.
Then Bill Baker suddenly pretends to be Liam Neeson in “Taken”. You don’t really believe that either. But even there he just stumbles under all the heaviness and just doesn’t want to tip over.
Will America learn from its purification? The message would go something like this: Foreign assignments are okay, but only to cope with your own trauma.