Powerful performances by Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Milla Javovich, and Frances Conroy help Stone overcome obvious flaws in production and story development. The film is based on a play, and the pace and tone make it feel like one. The feeling that comes from that production creates an intense emotional connection to the characters, despite none of them being particularly likable.
But man, those performances...
Robert De Niro is, of course, one of the greatest actors of all time. Edward Norton will be thought of in the same way during the next decade. Both elevate their scenes, especially the scenes in which they are face-to-face, to a special level. Milla Javovich does crazy like nobody's business, and is a treat to watch. But it's Frances Conroy's stilted performance as a housewife who's accepted her unhappy lot in life who makes this film successful for me.
Her repressed hostility and regret caused me to have The Danny Gut early on.