Sunday, March 21, 2004

21 Grams 

"...the weight of a stack of five nickels.. the wait of a hummingbird..."

As this long and somewhat pretentious final musing continued, I almost expected Sean Penn to start crying out hysterically "THE WEIGHT OF AN ABORTED ZYGOTE" or something similar. 21 Grams is not one of the year's great films. It's often over-emotional; its refusal to be linear isn't very interesting these days, and its themes are played out poorly.

I would have been willing to view it more highly were it not for its uncritical presentation of abortion-as-evil. In the film, one of the central characters, seeing her partner (Penn) dying, wants to have his baby as a memory of him. Her fallopian tubes are, however, damaged from a previous abortion. The doctor demands to know why she had that abortion - none of his bloody business - and then gives her no chance to explain. Later on, her partner (now better) also finds out about the past abortion, and uses it as an excuse to break up with her. He's been having affairs all over the place and wants any reason to leave her, but she's an evil killer, so obviously he's a saint for putting up with her this long. The kiddy-killing bitch deserves everything she gets. Ri-ight...

After that I felt suspicious throughout the film, on guard for more insidious bits of reactionary propaganda, found several (mostly religious or gun-related) and decided not to bother with it any more. Benicio Del Toro and Melissa Leo are pretty good, as is Clea Duvall in a supporting role. Otherwise, this film really isn't one to watch. I've always thought Sean Penn was greatly overrated, and given its wilfully 'artsy' style, I'm surprised the film reached the big screens at all. If something had to do it, why not A Mighty Wind, Elephant or one of the other excellent small films out this year?

Despite this disappointing experience, though, I continue to think that this year has so far been one of the best for excellent new release films - including those made last year, and only out now - in a very long time. Roll on the summer blockbusters!

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