Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Review: "The Weight of Water" is a Heavy Drama (Happy B'day, Sarah Polley)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 81 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Weight of Water (2000)
Running time:  114 minutes (1 hour, 54 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence, sexuality/nudity, and brief language
DIRECTOR:  Kathryn Bigelow
WRITERS:  Alice Arlen and Christopher Kyle (based upon the novel by Anita Shreve)
PRODUCERS:  Janet Yang, Sigurjon Sighvatsson, and A. Kitman Ho
EDITOR:  Howard E. Smith
COMPOSER:  David Hirschfelder

DRAMA/MYSTERY with elements of a thriller

Starring:  Sean Penn, Catherine McCormack, Josh Lucas, Elizabeth Hurley, Sarah Polley, Ciarán Hinds, Ulrich Thomsen, Anders W. Berthelsen, and Katrin Cartlidge

The subject of this movie review is The Weight of Water, a 2000 drama and mystery film from director Kathryn Bigelow.  The film made its debut in 2000, but did not receive a U.S. release until November 2002.  The film is based on the 1997 novel, The Weight of Water, by author Anita Shreve.  The novel, which is historical fiction, is based in part on a real-life 19th century American murder case.  The Weight of Water the movie focuses on a newspaper photographer who is researching the lurid and sensational axe murder of two women in 1873, while dealing with her own marital problems.

Two couples: Thomas and Jean Janes (Sean Penn and Catherine McCormack) and Thomas’ brother, Rich Janes (Josh Lucas), and his girlfriend, Adaline Gunne (Elizabeth Hurley) take a boat trip to the island of Smuttynose, off the New Hampshire coast.  Jean is conducting a personal investigation of the double murder of two women back in 1873.  Having unearthed an eyewitness account of the murders, Jane seeks to prove that the Louis Wagner (Ciarán Hinds), the man executed for the crimes, was innocent, and that his accuser, Maren Hontvedt (Sarah Polley), was instead the murderer.  The film moves back and forth between the present day and the past, dredging up the incidents surrounding the murders and also the troubles in Thomas and Jean’s marriage.

After making films that fit one way or another in the action genre, director Kathryn Bigelow tackled dysfunctional marriages, dark family secrets, and murder in the film, The Weight of Water.  Quite skilled at creating mood and atmosphere (as shown in her earlier works), Bigelow constructs a movie in which disappointment and resignation saturate the story and anger boils mightily beneath the surface.

The jumps in time, between the present and 1973, aren’t really a distraction; rather they build up tension and allow the stronger half of the film, Maren Hontvedt’s story and the murders in 1873, to support the weaker half, the Janes’ boat trip.  Watching the film, one gets the idea that Bigelow was enamored with Maren Hontvedt’s half of the film and not as interested the present day half featuring the tense dynamic between Thomas, Jean, Rich, and Adaline.  Connection with the present day sub-plots isn’t fun; at times, Bigelow handles them a little clumsily.  On the other hand, she uses the riveting and bloody tale of 1873 to carry the past and present to an ending that is both gut wrenching and heavy.  Here, through Sarah Polley as Maren, Bigelow makes her strongest case that the mistakes of the past, like insistent ghosts, never leave.  They will drown the future if they aren’t guarded against – even in a small moment of weakness when the mind, body and soul lapse into rage.

6 of 10

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Update:  Wednesday, January 08, 2014

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