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|Index||84 reviews in total|
66 out of 90 people found the following review useful:
Excellent Cast and Budget Wasted by a Confused Screenplay and a Terrible and Pretentious Direction, 1 August 2004
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This movie could be an excellent film, having a great cast and budget,
photography and soundtrack, but it does not work well. Why? Because of the
confused screenplay and a terrible and even pretentious direction. There are
two stories, one of them excellent. In 1873, two women are ax murdered in an
isolated island in New Hampshire. A man is accused of the crime by the
survival, Maren Hontvedt (Sarah Polley), and condemned to be hanged. This
story, presented through flashbacks, is wonderful, with an outstanding
performance of Sarah Polley. In the present days, the newspaper photographer
Jean Janes (Catherine McCormack) is researching this murder. She is married
with the famous writer Thomas Janes (Sean Penn), and she convinces her
brother-in-law Rich Janes (Josh Lucas) to sail to the island in his yacht.
Rich brings his girlfriend Adaline Gunne (the delicious Elizabeth Hurley),
who is a fan of Thomas and tries to seduce him, playing erotic games. This
story is totally confused, spinning and never reaching a point. The
intention of the director was to have a parallel narrative, linked by common
points. But in practice, it becomes a mess, with unresolved situations and
characters not well developed. In the end, I felt sorrow for such a waste of
a talented cast. My vote is five.
Title (Brazil): `O Peso da Água' (`The Weight of the Water')
43 out of 51 people found the following review useful:
half a good film, 1 August 2003
Author: Roland E. Zwick (firstname.lastname@example.org) from United States
In its basic structure and format, `The Weight of Water' is very similar
the far more impressive film `Possession' from 2002. In both movies, we
two different stories running simultaneously: one, a mystery set in the
past, and, the other, a personal drama located in the present, involving a
group of characters reflecting on and trying to make sense of the events
that took place a century or so earlier.
The story-within-a-story in `The Weight of Water' is a true-life account of a brutal double murder that took place on a remote island off the coast of New Hampshire in the 1870's. Two out of the three women who were on the island that fateful night fell victim to the murderer, with the third escaping and fingering a man - a former boarder - as the culprit. The man was convicted and hanged for the offense, yet, more than a century later, a shadow of doubt hangs over the verdict. One of the modern-day doubters is Jean Janes, a photographer who ventures to the island to do a shoot of the location, only to find herself strangely obsessed with uncovering the truth about the case. Accompanying her on her quest are her husband, Thomas, a celebrated poet; Rich, his handsome brother whose boat they use to get to the island; and Adaline, the latter's gorgeous girlfriend who also happens to be a devotee of Thomas' literary work and a bit of a `groupie,' as it turns out, in both tone and temperament, attaching herself rather obviously to the talented young bard, despite the fact that his observant wife is on the boat with them. As in `Possession,' the filmmakers in this film - screenwriters Alice Arlen and Christopher Kyle and director Kate Bigelow - shift constantly between the past and the present, allowing us to piece together the clues as to what really happened on that island over 130 years ago, and, at the same time, to examine the strained relationships among those contemporary figures looking for the answers.
The problem with `The Weight of Water' - as it is in many films with this dual-narrative structure - is that one story almost inevitably ends up dominating over the other. Certainly, both tales seem to want to make the same unified point: that love and passion are often such overwhelming forces in our lives that they can end up destroying us in the process. How often do luck, fate, personal demons or societal pressure force us to compromise those elemental passions raging within our hearts, leading us, ultimately, to all the wrong choices and wrong partners that we end up having to live with for the rest of our lives? This is certainly the case in the part of the story set in the past where loneliness, regret, even incest and lesbianism play a crucial part in what happens to the characters. We can understand what motivates these individuals to do what they do, since their hungers, needs and intentions are cleanly laid out and clearly defined.
The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the outer story set in the present. These characters lack the necessary delineation to make us truly understand where they are coming from or to make us care where they are going. Catherine McCormack does a superb job as Jean, capturing the fears, jealousies and anxieties of this insecure modern woman, but the screenplay doesn't let us into her mind enough to show us what is really going on beneath the surface. We know that she is unhappy in her marriage, but we never really get to know why. The situation is not helped one bit by Sean Pean who barely registers an emotion in the crucial role of Jean's husband. Apart from the fact that he seems to be brooding all the time, we never get the sense that Thomas could really be the world-class poet we are told he is. As Adaline, Josh's tawny-haired girlfriend, Hurley looks great in her bikini, of course, but the character is little more than the stereotypical temptress placed there by the writers to serve as a source of strain and tension on the marriage. The movie also builds to a mini- `Perfect Storm'-type climax that seems forced, phony, arbitrary and all too convenient and, worst of all, fails to make the connection between the two narratives clear and comprehensible. The final scenes seem strained at best, as the authors attempt to bring all the disparate elements together - but to no real avail. The fact is that the filmmakers never make their case as to why we should find any kind of meaningful parallels between the characters and events in the two stories. The characters in the past are obviously hemmed in by the repressive society in which they live so we give them a little leeway and offer them our sympathy; the characters in the present, with so many more options open to them, just come across as whiney and self-pitying and we find ourselves growing more and more impatient with them (all except Jean, that is) as the story rolls along.
`The Weight of Water' wants to be an important and meaningful film, but only one half of its story truly earns those adjectives.
23 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
A cruise to nowhere, 12 December 2005
Author: jotix100 from New York
The problem with "The Weight of the Water", the film, is the way the
novel by Anita Shreve, was adapted for the screen. This is the basic
flaw that even a good director like Kathryn Bigelow couldn't overcome
when she took command of the production. The novel, as it is, presents
grave problems for a screen treatment, something that the adapters,
Alicia Arlen and Christopher Kyle, were not successful with their
The picture is basically a film within a film. Both subjects, the present time and the story that is revealed as Jane gets involved, parallel each other, but one story has nothing to do with the other. Also, the way this film was marketed was wrong. This is not a thriller at all. What the book and the film are about is human situations that are put to a test.
In the story that happened many years ago in a settlement in coastal New England, there was a notorious murder at the center of the narrative. It has to do with a wrongly accused man, Louis Wagner, a man that is basically crippled with arthritis that is accused by Maren Hontvelt, his landlady, as the one that killed two women, Karen and Anethe. In flashbacks we get to know the truth of how an innocent man is hung for a crime he didn't commit.
The second story shows how Jane who is traveling with her husband Thomas, in his brother's yacht. She is a photographer on assignment about the place where the women were murdered, years ago, is lured to the subject matter she is photographing, and makes the discovery of the truth. Her own relationship with her husband Thomas is a troubled one. They are doomed as a couple, one can only see the way he leers after his brother's girlfriend as she parades almost naked in the pleasure boat they are spending time. In the novel the tension comes across much deeply than what one sees in the movie.
The amusing thing about the film is that the secondary story is more interesting than the present one. Thus, the luminous Sarah Polley, who plays Maren in the secondary tale, makes a deep impression, as does the accused man, Louis Wagner, who is portrayed by Ciaran Hands. Sean Penn, comes across as somehow stiff as Thomas. The wonderful Katrin Cartlidge is totally wasted.
The film has elicited bad comments in this forum, but it's not the bad movie some people are trying to say it is. Better yet, read Ms. Shreve's novel as it is more satisfying than what came out in this movie version.
24 out of 36 people found the following review useful:
Sarah Polley is fantastic, 27 August 2004
Author: lite-1 from NYC
When a movie gets itself over certain hurdles, establishing
believability, mainly, and creating audience sympathy with/for one or
more characters-- I am willing to silence my nagging inner critic, who
is perhaps a thwarted pleasure principle raising its head to be fed.
Sarah Polley makes this film. Her acting was excellent, but I found myself, at first, most delighted by her "Norweigan" accent. As the movie went on, I got addicted to that accent, which for me had become integral to her performance. She, not Hurley, not Penn, was the centerpiece of this movie. But everyone was good, and the two story lines came together at the end satisfyingly.
Until I looked Sarah Polley up on IMDb I didn't realize how "busy" she's been (and will be). Also a writer and director ...
24 out of 36 people found the following review useful:
I didn't get it., 25 May 2004
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (email@example.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
Maybe it's too "European" for me. I mean it's pretty slow, ponderous,
portentous, and moody. It's also confusing, partly because the cuts
back and forth between the current and past stories take place at
awkward times and partly because the editing of the modern climax
leaves me in doubt about exactly what the heck HAPPENED and in fact,
even who SURVIVED.
I've always kind of enjoyed Katheryn Bigelow's work. It's commercial, but man does she have an eye for the camera. In "Blue Steel" the lens lingers lovingly over a pistol's contours as if the two objects wanted to get it on.
But here, well, I can't help wondering if she overdosed on a full sleepless weekend of Ingmar Bergman.
The historic part first. I liked it. It reminded me a little of "Babette's Feast." The life is one of hard work and infrequent bare wooden pleasures. Bigelow does a splendid job of visualizing this nearly joyless existence and the acting is unimpeachable on the part of everyone concerned, especially Sarah Polley who is given a pinched wind-reddened face and a delivery that never deviates from the tone of a casual remark. She is what is known as repressed. It's like watching a boil grow as her emotions simmer. As in a Bergman film there's a lot of sex around here. Not just ordinary marital bliss, which never seems much fun, but homosexual and incestuous too. The final confrontation between the three women has Polley sitting in a bed with her sister-in-law and being accused of corrupting her. I can't get over the way Bigelow and Polley handle this important scene. Polley, previously the epitome of emotional restraint, glares at her accuser from under her tousled blonde hair, her blue eyes now big and blazing with anger, lighted from above so that they seem to glow from within the shadow of her brows. Finally Polley's character seems fully alive although mad. The story is a success in almost every respect.
Then there is the modern story of four amateur sailors come to investigate this century-old murder case. There's a lot of sex in this part too. Well -- let's face facts. With Elizabeth Hurley in a major role, you get sex whether you want it or not. What a succulent morsel! To imagine Hurley chaste is like trying to imagine the young Ann-Margaret as a nun. Not that I mean to knock her. She's never delivered a better dramatic performance. Catherine McCormack has a better, more complex role, and she delivers too. She doesn't exude sexuality the way Hurley does but her beauty is more subtle and more enduring, the kind of woman you must get to know to appreciate. Sean Penn is unconvincing as a lapsed poet. The other guy seems a nice enough fellow but I'm not sure why he's around except maybe to introduce a fourth character on whom suspicions can be cast. This is a plot in which people sit around ogling one another and intuiting so many things about the other characters, without actually voicing them, that it's enough to make Henry James roll over in his grave. Somehow -- I'm just guessing at this -- McCormack identifies with the repressed Polley. When Penn approaches McCormack in the deserted library stacks and tries to make love to her up against the tomes, she balks and says, "I can't do this." I suppose this is to be taken as repression rather than just a lack of desire to perform this kind of acrobatic pas de deux while standing up. (Penn may be a poet but he's no gentleman.) There's also the evidence of identification provided by McCormack's drowning hallucinations about coming face to face with Polley's smiling corpse underwater. But that's about the only parallel I can see, if in fact it exists. It would have been easier to follow if McCormack had bopped Hurley over the head and flung the slut overboard, but that isn't what happens.
The score is as moody as the picture. Lots of cello leads in the orchestration, although not Bach, as in that Bergman movie about sin and guilt and incestuous sex among family members on an isolated island. Nobody can criticize the photography though. In these latitudes, even in midsummer, the sun is never high in the sky but the weather is usually clear and windy, or at least it was during the summer I spent in Digby. It's a truly beautiful climate and it's thrilling to see it so well captured on screen.
If you're caught in a storm offshore in a sailboat and lose your engine, can't you throw over a bow anchor and ride it out? Or, failing that, a drogue?
I don't know. But then there are a lot of things about this movie that I didn't get.
18 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
Underrated film by an underrated director., 4 May 2003
"The Weight of Water" (interestingly obscure title, isn't it?) is not a masterpiece, and sometimes seems to be striving for a "greater meaning" that simply isn't there. However, that's no excuse for its excessively poor critical reception. Yes, the "seduction" part of the present story is a bit cliched, and the story of the past goes pretty much where you expect it (after a point) to go. In spite of all that, the film is able to get by on the strength of Kathryn Bigelow's direction, which is, in a word, impeccable. Every single shot is meticulously planned and - when it has to be - visually beautiful. Bigelow has already proved that she is a master of her craft when it comes to directing high-energy action sequences; here she proves that she is equally adept at subtlety. There are facial expressions, small gestures and glances that speak volumes in this movie. Of course part of the credit for that has to go to the cast, which is mostly superb (with the notable exception of Elizabeth Harley); Catherine McCormack and Sarah Polley are the best, each one holds her own story together perfectly. The film also has stunning photography and a beautiful music score. (**1/2)
11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
An oddly engaging film that explores provocative themes with a welcome adult sensibility., 26 March 2003
Author: TheVid from Colorado Springs
In spite of it's convoluted plot, there is much to admire about this picture, particularly the sexual tension it exudes. The contemporary story is derivative of Polanski's brilliant KNIFE IN THE WATER, while the flashback story is ripe with atmosphere and an ominous mood that overwhelms the rest of the picture and sustains the whole movie. The ensemble performances are first rate, slightly uneven at times, but generally committed. Elizabeth Hurley is appropriately sexy in her bit, and no less interesting than anyone else, despite what you might expect. This is a rather somber, mood piece from Bigelow, whose reputation as a keen director of action movies is only briefly apparent in this subdued thriller. Well worth a look.
12 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Best if watched as two different movies., 31 August 2004
Author: TxMike from Houston, Tx, USA, Earth
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had the good fortune to read a number of reviews and user comments before
I saw "Weight of Water", so I modified my viewing technique. On DVD, and
using the fast forward feature, first I watched only the 1873 part of the
movie, starring Sarah Polley. That took about an hour and 15 minutes, and
was an excellent presentation of the story. Then I watched the modern part
of the movie, where two couples are going back to the site of the 1873
tragedy, to photograph it. In the process they also ended up doing some
research in the county archives. Elizabeth Hurley finds time to do some
topless sunbathing on the boat. Watched that way, the old story followed by
the modern story, was very interesting.
SPOILERS, for my recollection, please read no further. Although not revealed in chronological order, Polley plays a Norwegian woman who was in love with her younger brother and had had an incestuous affair with him, so her father married her off to a man who took her with him to fish off the coast of New England. She never forgets about her brother, doesn't love her husband, is excited when she hears brother is coming to visit, is hurt when he shows up with a young wife. While the men are overnight on the mainland, older spinster sister catches Polley and the young wife asleep together in a romantic setting, tells about the incest, young wife is hysterical, Polley beats then strangles her sister, goes outside and uses an axe to kill the young wife, drags her in, falsely blames German boarder who had made passes at them, the German is convicted in a trial, is hanged, Polley goes to authorities two years later and admits what she had done, but the prosecutor suppressed this, can't undo the hanging, the account is found in modern times during the other half of the movie.
MORE SPOILERS -- the modern half of the movie has two brothers, a wife of one, a girlfriend of the other, all on a sailboat. We learn married brother (Penn) is having an affair with girlfriend (Liz Hurley) of his brother (Lucas). Things are complicated, the wife begins to believe the 1873 story did not happen as written, that the wife really was the killer, and they find papers in the county archives. Weather turns nasty, Hurley falls in water, Penn jumps in with a rope to save her, which he does, but drowns in the process. The modern story was nowhere as interesting as the 1873 story, and apparently only existed to (1) provide a modern explanation of the old story and (2) to make the movie more than 60 minutes. But Liz Hurley does look good when sunbathing topless!
10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
One story in two, 28 October 2002
Author: stensson from Stockholm, Sweden
Clever script, clever acting, especially by the late Katrin Cartlidge.
is about a history murder case. Who did the axe killing? The supposed one
the certainly unsupposed?
There are two parallel plots here, the murder case and the case of those who are examining the case 130 years later. In many (emotional) ways the two plots are really the same. The murder case takes over the souls of the investigators.
You get confused and found out quite many things after leaving the movie house. That's typical for a good thriller.
13 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
By the numbers drama, 14 June 2003
Author: rosscinema (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Oceanside, Ca.
I like Kathryn Bigelow as a director and she can direct any type of film no matter how technically challenging but their was something really lacking in this film. I'm not sure what it is but my guess is its imagination. Their is nothing special about this story. The film is about two stories. One a true story about two women that were murdered at the Isles of Shoal in New Hampshire in 1873. The other takes place in contemporary times and its about a writer named Thomas Janes (Sean Penn) and his photographer wife Jean (Catherine McCormack) who are going to spend time on a chartered yacht with his brother Rich (Josh Lucas) and his sexy girlfriend Adaline (Elizabeth Hurley). While on the yacht they visit the the actual murder area and Jean starts to read actual letters and transcripts about the case and thinks that the man Wagner (Ciaran Hinds) who was hanged for the murder is actually innocent. The film goes back and forth telling both stories and the first has a woman named Maren (Sarah Polley) who is married but doesn't love her husband. One day her brother comes to visit with his new wife and this makes Maren upset. She is in love with her own brother and they share an incestuous past! The second story has Thomas jealous of his brother and jealous of his wife but still can't help but to stare and flirt with Adaline. The editing in the film tries to intercut both stories but the rhythm and flow seem uneven. The film tries very hard to make us think that both of these stories have a connection between them. But except for the obvious that its about trying to make amends for the past, their really is no hardcore evidence that they are connected. The film looks good, both of them! Bigelow knows how her films should look and she should be commended. Both stories have a very different look and feel and obviously a lot of time was spent on each story. The performances are pretty good especially Polley as Maren. She gives the type of performance that should send out a signal to all studios that she's a solid actress and should be considered for larger roles. Penn also is good as the writer with problems from his past and McCormack is exceptional. She really carries the film and her jealousy and boredom are very evident and understandable for her character. Some have said that Hurley is nothing more than eye candy for the film but I disagree. The film needed an actress that could make us believe that Penn's character would be tempted to stray from his wife and Hurley is so exceptionally beautiful. As she lies in her skimpy bikini or parades topless its hard to not believe that any male wouldn't flirt, even a little bit! But the film lacks any real passion or imagination. The storm at the end of the film seems so forced like its there as just an excuse to set up certain events. It just didn't ring true. When the filmmakers decided they were going to go ahead with this picture, what did they think the point of the film was? It seems both murky and a little contrived. Some real talented individuals were involved in this film but the core of the story seems very hollow.
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