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21 Grams

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: 21 Grams

Starring: Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Rated: R
RunTime: 125 Minutes
Release Date: November 2003
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Naomi Watts, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Danny Huston, Clea Duvall, Marc Musso, David Chattam, Teresa Delgado, Stephen Bridgewater, Kevin Chapman, Carlo Alban

Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

In his first English-language film, acclaimed Mexican director Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu ("Amores Perros") once again explores the spiritual meaning of living and dying in this drama of three families that are changed forever by a tragic automobile accident. Significantly, the title refers to what a body supposedly loses at the moment of death, perhaps the weight of the soul.

As the story begins, a tortured heart-transplant patient (Sean Penn) wonders, "What am I doing in this pre-corpse club?" as his wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) implores a gynecologist to use her dying husband's sperm for artificial insemination. Across town, a conscience-stricken Born Again ex-con (Benicio Del Toro) interrupts a birthday celebration with a horrific tale to tell his long-suffering wife (Melissa Leo). And a hysterical drug-addicted party girl-turned-suburban housewife/mother (Naomi Watts) faces the devastating loss of her husband and two daughters.

At first, writer Guillermo Arriaga's complex construction is confusing - like the non-linear structure of "Memento" - but soon the seemingly random past-and-present fragments seamlessly interlock with a cohesive texture, like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Indeed, the lives of the disparate characters are intertwined in riveting and ironic ways. At the emotional center, grieving Naomi Watts ("Mulholland Drive") exudes a ferocious, relentless intensity that deserves an Oscar nomination, while Sean Penn ("Mystic River") delivers an astonishing, electrifying performance which won him the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "21 Grams" is a powerfully provocative, weighty 8. "Life goes on" - all the devastated people whose lives have been affected by the automobile accident are told - but at what price?

Copyright 2003 Susan Granger

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