Back in August of last year, Paramount Pictures announced that it was moving Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, the anticipated follow-up to the director’s Oscar-winning The Departed, from an Oct. 2 release date to February 2010. The move was perplexing for a variety of reasons, the most obvious of which was the presence of an Oscar-bait director like Scorsese and an equally lauded A-list actor like Leonardo DiCaprio. Such a shift — especially one that moves a film from the fall awards season to the Land of Misfit Movies known as February — is typically a sign that it’s expected to disappoint for one reason or another.
Yet Brad Grey, chairman of Paramount Pictures, released a statement at the time saying the move was made in an effort to give the film “every possible chance to succeed both creatively and financially.” Grey concluded by saying, “Martin Scorsese is not just one of the world’s most significant filmmakers, but also a personal friend. Following a highly successful 2009, we have every confidence that Shutter Island is a great anchor to lead off our 2010 slate and the shift in date is the best decision for the film, the studio and ultimately Viacom.”
At the time the statement was released, I skeptically wrote of Grey’s final sentence, “I’ll believe that when I see it.”
Six months later Shutter Island is finally ready for release, and it seems Grey might get the last laugh — at least in terms of its mostly positive critical reception. (Paramount didn’t provide a local advanced critics’ or promo screening, thus I won’t know for sure until I check it out this weekend.) In a profile piece on the making of the film that ran in the Feb. 5 edition of The New York Times, Terrence Rafferty wrote this of Scorsese’s latest: “Based on an exceptionally tricky 2003 mystery novel by Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island wears its something-elseness proudly, even defiantly. It’s a true oddity, an outlier, as isolated and enigmatic as the gloomy, rain-whipped island on which the action takes place.”
Further, in his review below, CityBeat contributor Cole Smithey calls the film “a gorgeously stylized psychological thriller full of darkly lush horror that torments its obsessed protagonist.”
All of which seems to say that Scorsese has finally — post-Oscar — put big-canvass prestige films like The Gangs of New York and The Aviator and the entertaining but safely-in-the-Scorsese-crime-movie-sweet-spot fare of The Departed on the back burner in favor of the challenging, genre-influenced approach of his heydey. It’s heartening to see that Scorsese, a 67-year-old guy with nothing left to prove, is still interested in investigating the gritty, dark corners of American life, and (apparently) doing it with the stylized, emotionally penetrating grace that has always set him apart.
HAPPY TEARS — Writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein (yes, the son of Roy) follows up his deliciously wicked debut, Teeth, with this story about a pair of sisters (Parker Posey and Demi Moore) who move back to their childhood home to take care of their ailing father (Rip Torn). The already curious cast also includes Ellen Barkin. (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Jason Gargano (Rated R.) Review coming soon
THE LAST STATION — The Last Station is the kind of dramatically bound historic material that could soar on Broadway with the cast — but not the script — of its film version. And yet writer/director Michael Hoffman’s film adaptation of Jay Parini's novel doesn't effectively rally the strength of its accomplished actors, which include Oscar nominees Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren and James McEvoy, Kerry Condon and Paul Giamatti. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) — Cole Smithey (Rated R.) Grade: C-plus
SHUTTER ISLAND — Martin Scorsese’s latest is a gorgeously stylized psychological thriller full of darkly lush horror that torments its obsessed protagonist. As former World War II veteran and U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels, Leonardo DiCaprio hits every psychological mark that Scorsese dynamically orchestrates against a vast metaphorical natural and unnatural setting. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — CS (Rated R.) Grade: A-