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The Weight Of Water

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Weight Of Water

Starring: Catherine McCormack, Sean Penn
Director: Kathyrn Bigelow
Rated: R
RunTime: 114 Minutes
Release Date: November 2002
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Elizabeth Hurley, Sarah Polley, Joshua Lucas, Ciaran Hinds, Ulrich Thomsen, Katrin Cartlidge

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

Men are more violent than women by far, but since hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, watch out for the fair sex or do you think Clytemnestra, Medea, and Lady Macbeth are merely fictional characters and Lizzie Bordon just the title of a song? Kathryn Bigelow illustrates the fury of women convincingly, entertainingly, and with remarkable faith to an actual case of axe- murder. She weaves the historical past & fictionalized present into a thoroughly modern yarn about the growing tension of an enraged female when in close quarters with the objects of her disaffection. Based on best-selling novel by Alice Shreve and adapted for the screen by Alice Arlen, Kathryn Bigelow's smoldering tale of hatred, envy and murderous rage shifts regularly from the year 2000 to the year 1873 and back, both settings filmed in the area of Halifax but actually occurring on Smuttynose Island off the New Hampshire coast.

The historical record indicates that Maren Hontvedt (Sarah Polley) traveled from her native Norway to America with her husband, not particularly pleased with her rocky digs and not overly enamored of her much older spouse. Truth to tell, she's had a hot thing going with her brother back in Norway, a passion that is illustrated clearly when her brother, Evan (Anders W. Berthelsen) goes to Smuttynose on a visit with his bubbly wife, Karen (Katrin Cartlidge). Fuming that her prosperous brother threw her over for an urbanized woman, Maren takes a Medea- style revenge, blaming all on a poor Rasputin-looking shlub (Ciaran Hinds).

The principal benefit of fiction is entertainment, of course, but closely behind that is its capacity to teach us about the human condition, or more specifically to allow us to relate our own emotions to those of the characters in the novels and movies. When in the modern part of the story Jean Janes (Catherine McCormack) takes off with her Pulitzer-prize winning poet husband Thomas (Sean Penn) to write and photograph a magazine story about a double-murder in 1873, she may have known the feelings erupting beneath Maren's taciturn and innocent-looking surface, but only intellectually. After all, how many people can really feel the incredible rage that would lead one to murder in the heat of passion? But when her own marriage undergoes a challenge on board the boat operated by her brother- in-law, Rich (Josh Lucas), then she knows what Maren felt with a capital K-N-O-W-S. The cause of this anger? Rich's girl friend Adaline Gunne (Elizabeth Hurley) flirts mischievously with Jean's husband, lying bare-breasted on the deck of the boat sensually chewing an ice cube and rubbing it across her body while looking coquettishly at Thomas who, it turns out, had once been an acquaintance of his some time ago. Thomas is hardly unresponsive.

Since the action in 1873 takes place almost completely within a rugged cabin and on a brief stretch of rocky territory just outside, and given that the goings on in the year 2000 are restricted to a boat, the claustrophobic settings furnish all the needed motivation for the rising anger felt by Maren 130 years ago and by Jean in our own time. The murders that took place then are a mirror of the tragic course of events that will take place on Rich's boat in the here-and-now. Kathryn Bigelow's weaving of the two eras to show their similarities is, as the cliche goes, seamless. Sarah Polley takes top honors, speaking English with a clipped, Scandinavian accent, a picture of innocence which gives credence to the adage, "Watch out for the quiet ones."

As for the mysterious title, we need only read Ms. Shreve's novel, written five years ago, which states on page 192, "I think about the weight of water, its scientific properties. A cubic foot of water weighs 62.4 pounds. Seawater is 3.5 percent heavier than freshwater; that is, for every 1,000 pounds of seawater, 35 of those will be salt. The weight of water causes pressure to increase with depth." Deep emotions? Mucho pressure.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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