One-Minute Book Reviews

October 17, 2006

Dennis Lehane’s Debt to Clint Eastwood

Filed under: Movie Link,Mysteries and Thrillers — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:58 pm

Eastwood shows again that he’s a good director of bad books

Mystic River. By Dennis Lehane. HarperPaperbacks, 416 pp., $13.95, paperback.

Dennis Lehane told a reporter for the Boston Herald that he was “over the moon” about Brian Helgeland’s screenplay for the 2003 movie version of Mystic River, and no wonder. Helgeland’s script is remarkably faithful — in its plot, tone, and theme — to Lehane’s psychological thriller about three friends separted by a crime in childhood and reunited by another in adulthood.

Lehane’s plot hinges on the implausible coincidence that two tragedies occurred almost simultaneously in a gritty section of South Boston. One of these events receives so little foreshadowing that when it’s revealed late in the novel, it makes much of the earlier action seem like a cheat. In the movie strong performances by Sean Penn and others help to offset such flaws, so it’s easier to forget that Lehane is tilling with much less skill the same ground that George Higgins worked in The Friends of Eddie Coyle, the gold standard in novels about small-time Boston thugs.

Some critics said that Eastwood’s film version of The Bridges of Madison County showed that he’s a good director of bad books, and Mystic River strengthens their case. Who would have thought that it would be Eastwood — and not Steven Spielberg or George Lucas — who would turn out to be a novelist’s best friend?

Best line: “First Communion was an event in a Catholic child’s life — a day to dress up and be adored and fawned over and taken to Chuck E. Cheese’s afterward for lunch …”

Worst line: “Brendan Harris loved Katie Marcus like crazy, loved her like movie love, with an orchestra booming through his blood and flooding his ears.” Get out the sump pump for similies and metaphors.

Consider reading instead: The Friends of Eddie Coyle (Owl, 2000),

Movie Link: Sean Penn and Tim Robbins won the Academy Awards for best actor and best supporting actor for their roles in Mystic River, which also received four other Oscar nominations.

Posted by Janice Harayda

(c) 2006 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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