“Shutter” Bugs Me

I know, I know, it’s a big hit.  Still.

Dennis Lehane’s novel Shutter Island is a bagatelle but a good one, a very enjoyable beach read by one of our top crime writers.  There’s just about enough weight and matter there for one of those hour-long Twilight Zone episodes.  Might go an hour and a half, which is about how long the book takes to read.

So what happens when Martin Scorsese assembles a top-flight cast and brings the story in at two hours and twenty minutes?  Well, what do you think?  You get a well-directed, well-acted story with exactly zero narrative drive.  It’s not particularly boring or anything.  It holds your interest and all that.  But it just kind of ambles along like a dreamy schoolboy on a country lane when it ought to be blasting by on the tracks like a bullet train.  Loooong scenes of expositional dialogue, sloooow flashbacks, stagnant action scenes.  I wasn’t throwing my popcorn at the screen, but I wasn’t exactly on the edge of my seat either.

What’s interesting is that Clint Eastwood, a much more leisurely director in general, did exactly the same thing with Lehane’s Mystic River .  That is, he basically filmed the book whole – but that worked great.  The difference?  Mystic River is Lehane when he means it, when he’s delivering human beings, and neighborhoods and moral ambiguity, good material for a long, deep film.  Shutter Island is Lehane having fun.  So why didn’t Scorsese do the same thing?  Have fun, I mean.  Just wondering.

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  • Edmond D. Smith

    I’m not surprised. I read the book and liked it but thought that it was one of those books that shouldn’t be filmed. There are some stories that only can come to life on the page but put a camera on them and all their absudities come out in bold relief. Scorcese is a very talented guy but the camera is this story’s enemy. Scorcese couldn’t mend a naturally dsyfunctional relationship.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    I’m superficial. It’s DiCaprio’s face stubble that bugs me. Guys who weren’t alcoholics living on the street, or out on camping trips, did not wear stubble on their faces in the early ’50s. It wasn’t seen as a fashion statement, but as a failure of hygiene. Haven’t seen the film, but I know that, in itself, would take me right out of the story.

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  • http://www.lostaglia.blogspot.com CT Lostaglia

    Good point Lars. I asked my dad why the beatnicks he was hanging around in the 50′s all looked like Willy Loman dopplegangers…he said it was because they weren’t afraid of razor blades like the hippies were. Has nothing to do with the book, I know, but I think it might have something to do with Scorsese’s directorial methodology…

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