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"21 Grams"

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Written by Guillermo Arriaga.
Starring Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro.
Release Year:  2003
Review Date:  12/03 


You knew it when you saw the trailer:  “21 Grams” has some of, if not the best, acting of the year.

The acting, along with the strange sequential order of its unfolding plot, makes “21 Grams” an easy entry into the top five movies I have seen this year.  The story concerns a dying man (Sean Penn), a mother (Naomi Watts), and an ex-con (Benicio Del Toro) whose lives intersect following a tragedy in the life of the mother.  Because the plot is spooled out over the course of many months, you learn some things about the characters very early on, and then we backtrack to learn why certain decisions forced the lead threesome to get involved with each other.

Much like “Leaving Las Vegas” or “Iris” a couple of years ago, “21 Grams” is 100% performance-driven, and the three juggernauts heading the cast are up to the challenge.  I was extremely angry when Watts did not get nominated for her part in “Mulholland Drive” in 2001; the audition scene in that film was easily the best scene in any film that year.  Mark my words—if she doesn’t get a nod for her part in “21 Grams”, I will skip the Oscars next spring...much like I did in 2002 when “Memento” didn’t get nominated for Best Picture.  (“Moulin Rouge”...fucking “Moulin Rouge”!!)  Watts’ character just has such a ride in “21 Grams”; rarely do I get caught up in the emotions of a single character like I did here.  The mother has three or four scenes where she absolutely loses it, and Watts had me sitting there in stunned silence.  And, it doesn’t hurt that, in my friend Terry “GTA Is My Daddy” McDonnell’s words, “Naomi Watts is the hottest thing on wheels right now!”

Penn and Del Toro are almost as good as Watts.  Of course, Penn is always good, and Del Toro makes ordinary films like “The Hunted” look better.  Everyone in this movie gets intense, but balance these things off with quieter moments that really got me inside the head of their respective characters.  I don’t want to give anything away here, but if you see the film, you’ll get it.

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Amores Perros”) does great work here, and the grainy, washed-out look of “21 Grams” is just as grim as the storyline.  The supporting cast and the score are both excellent.  It’s a movie that resonates with you later.  Damn, “21 Grams” is ALL good.

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09