21 Grams Reviews
Told in a non-linear fashion, "21 Grams" focuses on three characters with the fixation of a subtle Altman film. They are Paul (Sean Penn), Cristina (Naomi Watts), and Jack (Benicio Del Toro). Paul is unhappily married to Mary (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who longs for a baby but is rendered hopeless due to Paul's dangerous heart condition. Cristina, once a happily wed woman with two lovely young daughters, has lost her husband and kids in a bloody hit-and-run, turning back to past drug addictions to make herself feel something besides nothing. Jack is an ex-convict who is trying to curb his criminal and alcoholic ways through faith, but is failing miserably. These people are all connected in some way or another, but to reveal the source of their crossing paths would strip the film of the pleasures you won't have.
Despite being one of the most depressing movies I have ever seen, "21 Grams" is still one of the best acted, bringing together a magnificently emotive ensemble and giving them what are perhaps the most rewarding (at least to watch) roles of their careers. Penn is a man torn between two equally devastating lives: in one, he is a sick man with a desperate wife clinging to his side; in the other, he is the co-dependent to a mentally unstable drug addict. Watts, in a performance so harrowing it would be a wonder if she didn't suffer while piecing together her characterization, is gut-wrenching as a woman so broken that we can only ask ourselves why she isn't shattered into a million pieces below our feet. And Del Toro is an embodiment of human suffering as a man who wants to atone for his sins but falls immediately after he stands up once again.
Everything about "21 Grams" is phenomenal, but despite its triumphs, I still have reservations about Gonzalez-Inarritu's decision to edit the film in inconsequential order. Some movies have done it well ("Memento", without a doubt), but in "21 Grams"' case, it's a loud concern that undermines the connected stories. Because we don't get to see characters develop in the usual sense, it's harder to grasp them as people, grip their personal stories as if they are our own.
If "21 Grams" isn't perfect and isn't tempting to embrace, that's beside the point. This is a frustrating but visceral film that overwhelms us with its sorrow, its despair. It doesn't feel good, sure, but one rarely gets the opportunity to experience something this exhilarating.
The back-and-forth-in-time scene sequence didn't work for me. I don't necessarily believe movies should be linear (two of my favourite movies are Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, and they are not linear in their scene sequence), but 21 Grams overdoes the non-linearity. I kept feeling like I was cheating, as if I was skipping forward in the movie. A linear storytelling would have worked a lot better, and made me feel more surprised when the story took a twist.
There were too many loose ends in the movie (I won't mention them, to avoid spoiling the movie for others). I just felt like I was left hanging.
I couldn't grasp the implication of the 21 grams concept, even though I thought I understood the idea before the movie started. I left the movie feeling confused, and quite bitter, as I felt ripped off as the supposed deeper meaning was fairly lame or unfathomable, and the movie fairly pretentious.