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TLO Film Review: Stillwater

4:59 AM EDT on August 2, 2021

Within thirty seconds of Stillwater, we find Matt Damon not only digging through tornado debris, but ordering a foot-long coney from Sonic. I guess you could say that makes this the most Oklahoma movie ever made. Sorry, August: Osage County!

Damon is Bill Baker, a laid-off oilfield worker that is typically clad in a short-sleeve western shirt, camouflage hat and wraparound shades. As he drives his truck from Stillwater to Will Rogers Airport—it all looks real to me—we soon learn that his daughter is in a French prison for a crime she, apparently, didn’t commit.

As he travels to France—Marseille, to be accurate—sadly, there is very little fish-out-of-water comedy as he tries to prove her innocence, using purely Oklahoma tactics like not listening to people, walking away angry and blasting country music. Of course, no one wants to help him except for French actress Virginie (French actress Camille Cottin) and her precocious daughter Maya (little French actress Lilou Siauvaud).

Now to be honest, this is the part of the film that works best for me, as Bill spends time with them and, with his Oklahoma good ol’ boy charm and humor—which is, of course, none—becomes a well-meaning member of the family. Just as you start falling into and for this dynamic, the movie falls apart in the third act when it becomes something that resembles Saw-lite.

Look for cameos from the Subway sandwich chain, the OSU marching band, and someone playing the state governor because even they are ashamed of Stitt. Makes sense to me!

Directed by Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), Stillwater deftlu rotates between French mystery and MAGA pornography, and actually does both of them quite well. It manages to mostly entertain—probably better if you’re from France or Oklahoma—even though it takes one of the most unattractive cities in the state as its filmic namesake.

This was proven as I was leaving the theater and I heard a couple of old men joking that if they had used Norman—OU, mainly—instead, he would have busted in there with a pair of machine guns and brought his daughter home, proving that the scattered message of the movie wasn’t lost so much as it was thrown away in that dump out on Highway 9.

Sigh…I really wish I was in France, chowing down on a Sonic coney.

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Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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