Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: Strong Performances Carry "21 Grams" (Happy B'day, Alejandro González Iñárritu)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 98 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

21 Grams (2003)
Running time: 124 minutes (2 hours, 4 minutes)
MPAA – R for language, sexuality, some violence and drug use
DIRECTOR: Alejandro González Iñárritu
WRITER: Guillermo Arriaga
PRODUCERS: Alejandro González Iñárritu and Robert Salerno
EDITOR: Stephen Mirrione
COMPOSER: Gustavo Santaolalla
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro, Eddie Marsan, Clea DuVall, Danny Huston, Melissa Leo, and Paul Calderon

In the heavy drama, 21 Grams, the lives of a former drug addict, Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts), a terminally ill mathematics professor, Paul Rivers (Sean Penn), and a spiritual ex-convict, Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro), intersect tragically and hopefully after a car accident. Jordan kills Cristina’s husband Michael (Danny Hutson) and her two daughters in a hit and run accident. After receiving Michael’s heart in a transplant operation, Rivers seeks and woos Cristina at the cost of his already deteriorating marriage.

The film by rising directorial star Alejandro González Iñárritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (the duo who collaborated on Academy Award nominee Amores Perros) is wrought with unpleasant circumstances in the lives of the characters. That’s not bad, but too much heartache and tragedy can become tragicomic. Verisimilitude becomes stark reality, and the drama is spoiled by harsh realism. The audience prefers the staged reality of drama to heavily dramatized reality. Iñárritu and Arriaga deliver the pain and suffering with the precision of sledgehammer blows, and it all becomes too much and can disengage the viewer from the characters.

That’s a pity, too, because the cast gives such good performances that make the viewer care about the characters, really get into their lives, and root for them. For this film, Ms. Watts earned an Oscar® nomination for “Best Actress in a Leading Role,” and Del Toro earned a nomination for “Best Actor in a Supporting Role.” Had Sean Penn not earned an Oscar nod for Mystic River in 2003 (which he later won), he certainly would have received a nomination for his work here.

21 Grams is worth a look for people who love to see exceptional acting, especially the kind delivered by the leads, but the supporting players also do some standout work.

6 of 10

2004 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Benicio Del Toro) and “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Naomi Watts)

2004 BAFTA Awards: 5 nominations: “Best Editing” (Stephen Mirrione), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Benicio Del Toro), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Sean Penn), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Naomi Watts), “Best Screenplay – Original” (Guillermo Arriaga)


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