The Weight of Water

| November 5, 2002

Two years and fourteen countries later, The Weight of Water opened this weekend in the United States. Most of the stars in the film have appeared in between five and thirteen other movies since the completion of this picture. The director, Kathryn Bigelow, had a major film–K-19 The Widowmaker–come and go from pre-production, to shooting, to release, to video since WoW was released. It opened this weekend without much fanfare, i.e. marketing dollars spent. It’s almost as if they had to wait to get all the prints from the other countries in order to show them here. That should have told me something bad was going in.
The Weight of Water (aka, WoW) didn’t leave me pissed that I had spent good money to see a bad film. But it didn’t get me very excited to run home and tell you all about it, either. It falls into that broad spectrum of movies that when I see it on the cable listing a couple of years from now, I’ll have to strain to remember if I saw it until I see that Elizabeth Hurley is in the cast and think, “Oh yea, she had a couple of nice topless scenes.” And most importantly, I will still have no idea what the relationship of the title is to the story.
We see two movies in WoW (not to be confused with WOW! It’s GREAT). First is the story of the axe murder of two women in 1873 New Hampshire and second is the investigation of that murder in modern day.
Catherine McCormack (Spy Game and five others since this one) is Jean Janes, a photojournalist sent to the island where the murders took place to get some photos to go along with the story her publication is writing. First of many story questions: Where is the writer? She seems to get some psychic feeling about the murders which takes us, the viewers, back to the time of the murder where we witness the trial of the man accused of the killings. We will travel back and forth many times as we see and hear, through narrative of a “survivor” of the attacks tells us her story. The survivor is Maren Hontvedt (Sarah Polley from The Claim, Eight-Legged Freaks, and seven others since WoW) and through her we see how the accused man was tried and put to death. In modern times, we see Jean discover clues that lead her to think the wrong person may have died for those murders. Huge question here: the papers she finds in the town archives have been there for over 100 years. This case has been the subject of controversy for the entire time. During that time, I find it very hard to believe that no historian bothered to look through the personal papers of the prosecutor to find the same confessions that Jean does? I’m not buying it, but Hurley does look fetching in that pre-pregnancy bikini so I don’t let it trouble me too much.
The story in current times is very uncomfortable. Janes and her husband Thomas (Sean Penn from I Am Sam and nine others since this film) travel to the island on his brother’s boat. His brother Rich (Josh Lucas–Sweet Home Alabama and eight others since WoW) has brought along sensual girlfriend Adeline (Hurley from Bedazzled, Serving Sara and four others since, plus having a child), who seems to have the hots for both brothers. It turns out that Thomas introduced the two of them but we are never quite sure how long they knew each other before that introduction. It all leaves Jean very wary, as their marriage is having tons of problems anyway, and this old possible flame–who is still very hot–does nothing to make her feel better.
Sarah Polley was the outstanding actor in this movie, while Penn was disappointing as the brooding writer’s block infected poet who many years post-Pulitzer is just too emotionally handcuffed to care.
The wrap up to the movie, where the past looks into the eyes of the present was way too hokey for me. It almost seemed a poorly done afterthought, especially after seeing the same kind of thing in The Ring a couple of weeks ago. When this one comes around on video, go ahead and spend the .99, but don’t expect too much more than that in entertainment and you will be pleased.

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