The Weight of Water

tn_weightofwaterI’ve been thinking about Kathryn Bigelow lately because of ZERO DARK THIRTY, and I realized she has two theatrical releases that I never saw. We’ll call them the “in between STRANGE DAYS and HURT LOCKER” period. So I decided to fill that in.

Alot of times when directors make a movie that’s really different from what they’re known for it’s cool, because it shows that they’re challenging themselves and stretching and experimenting and all that. I’m sure some people feel that way about THE WEIGHT OF WATER, but I gotta admit I’m not that into this movie. It’s well made and shows some of the things Bigelow’s good at. But it’s not about surfing bank robbers or nomadic vampires or the manhunt for Osama bin Laden. In my opinion it’s about two couples on a boat trip having relationship problems while one of them reads old files about a murder that happened in 1873.

It is from the producer of ON DEADLY GROUND though.

Catherine McCormack plays Jean, a magazine photographer who wants to go to the Isles of Shoals to do a photo essay about the ax murder of two Norwegian women that happened a long ago, both in real life and in the novel by Anita Shreve. (If the movie mentions that the specific island where this happened is called “Smuttynose” then I missed it.) Jean’s husband (Sean Penn) is named “Thomas Janes,” but he doesn’t seem to be based on Thomas Jane. Sorry. Anyway he comes along because his brother Rich (STOLEN’s Josh Lucas) is the one that has a sailboat and can get her to the island. And Rich brings his superhot girlfriend Adaline (Elizabeth Hurley).

mp_weightofwaterMeanwhile – or actually, not meanwhile, 1873while – Maren Hontvedt (acclaimed director and DAWN OF THE DEAD remake star Sarah Polley) has identified Ciaran-Hinds-with-Hans-Grueber-hair as the man she saw murder two women in her cabin before she ran off and hid in a cave. The movie cuts back and forth between the present day boat trip and the events leading up to the murders, sort of drawing parallels between them, although most of the time I didn’t really understand what the connections were. It reminds me alot of CLOUD ATLAS and even though it’s not nearly as complex it had the same type of disconnect for me. So maybe I’m not good with these intercut-time-period movies.

On the sailboat there’s all kinds of sexual tension. Jean is really obvious about checking out (and taking pictures of) her brother-in-law taking his shirt off. Adaline is even worse about trying to give Jean’s husband a boner. I mean the way she sucks the ice cubes in front of him is obvious enough, she doesn’t have to also rub them on her nipples. This isn’t a huge boat, Jean is right there watching him watch this. You don’t know if it’s too uncomfortable for her to say “hey, knock that topless nipple hardening two feet away from my husband shit off” or if she’s into it herself or what. But she does seem to be jealous and suspicious of the relationship between those two. Which is maybe hypocritical.

It takes a while, but eventually this is mirrored in the other time period when it becomes clear that Maren has a thing for her own brother-in-law, and then it gets more complicated. This Maren has a rough life. She lives on this tiny rock and doesn’t seem real in love with her husband. Even if she was it can’t be good to have a husband with a giant Amish style beard. She has to do all the work, including mopping floors and chopping wood. She’s real happy when her brother-in-law is gonna come visit, and then completely bummed when he brings a new fiancee named Anethe (Vinessa Shaw) with him. Total twat block.

It gets worse: Anethe is a girly-girl who can’t do any of the work, but is so apologetic and embarrassed about her uselessness that it’s harder to hate her for it. And there’s this pervert guy Louis (Hinds) who Maren has to nurse back to health and he tries to make moves on her and it’s a pain in the ass. And she can’t bear children.

Things get more interesting when it becomes clear that Maren is a fuckin nut. She purposely puts Anethe into a situation where she gets raped by Louis, then convinces her not to tell anybody. When Anethe is later pregnant, and elated about it, it seems like Maren can’t even set up a rape without getting jealous.

There is some Respectable Kathryn Bigelow in here. Both stories are centered on female protagonists, both pretty complex and flawed characters. Like ZERO DARK THIRTY it’s very intent on not telling you what to think about what’s going on. In fact, there are a whole bunch of major story points where I wasn’t sure whether there were supposed to be multiple possible interpretations of the events or whether I just didn’t get it. IMDb forums confirm that many other people are confused or in disagreement about what happens. Most discussion seems to be about what exactly happens in the climax, but I’m more unsure about the black and white shots of Elizabeth Hurley during the scene where she finds out Thomas killed a girl in a drunk driving accident. I think it means that he’s such a sicko he tricked her into re-enacting his memory of a fatal car accident without telling her, and makes her wear a crucifix to remind him of the dead girl. But it could mean she’s picturing herself in the accident, or that the girl in the accident resembled her, or something else. I don’t know.

At times this obliqueness (obscure nautical pun not intended) seems like a storytelling weakness to me, but it also makes for most of the interesting parts of the movie. Probly my favorite scene – and I swear not for the wrong reasons – is one where (spoiler?) Maren and Anethe sleep in the same bed and sort of fool around. Anethe seems like she’s trying to seduce Maren, cuddling up to her, taking her nightgown off, giving her a massage. Polley lays looking at the camera in a long, horrified take. When she finally gives in Anethe seems to be asleep. You don’t know if this is gonna be a horrible misunderstanding, or if Anethe is playing around or just real tired or what. All very uncomfortable and understated, and there are many scenes like this where the motives and feelings are up to interpretation.

The movie is so focused on the women that Penn and Lucas’s characters feel kind of lightly sketched, like female characters usually are. Penn’s is one of his slick egomaniac guys, like in U-TURN. He’s supposed to be a famous poet. There’s a scene early on where a young woman comes up to him and says “Hey, you’re that writer guy, aren’t you?” and he says, “Yeah, William S. Burroughs.” I thought jesus, what a fucking asshole. You write poetry, for chrissakes, and this is the 21st century. If somebody recognizes you you should be hugely flattered, not be a dick.

Later the movie seems to say that he really is a big celebrity and that it’s weird that Jean didn’t know who he was when they first met, so I guess he didn’t have to be flattered. But he should’ve been polite. I’m against him.

It’s kinda weird, it seems like there’s this mystery about who the actual killer was, but it doesn’t really try to fool you about who it is. And ultimately it turns out that the killer confessed and the authorities secretly knew the truth, so it’s not like Jean uncovers something new. She just finds an old letter that explains it.

I don’t know if this is just me, but it seems like there are alot of movies, tv shows and books about married couples and somebody is having an affair or is real tempted to and they struggle with it and what not. Also alot of them, including this one, have a whole lot of gloomy saxophone playing on the soundtrack. I don’t know why this is supposed to be such a hugely interesting and important topic for grownup movies (and I mean that in both the Shannon Tweed and non-Shannon Tweed meaning of the term), but I guess somebody must be into it if they keep doing so many of these. I don’t know why, but I’m more into cliches like “I gotta get revenge on the guy that killed my wife” than “I really wanna fuck somebody that’s not my wife.” Maybe I’m just romantic?

Come to think of it maybe there’s something about this “couples on a sail boat trip” type of story too. They talk about life and relationships, they have some wine, usually somebody dies. No Natalie Wood jokes either, there really are a bunch of sail boat trip dramas and thrillers, right? And I guess it’s not a lifestyle that I can relate to. I’m not the “somebody I know owns a boat” type.

But at least this isn’t your run-of-the-mill version of that story, it’s a pretty weird one and gives you many things to try to decode. It’s just not my type of movie.

I guess even if it was it would probly still be the most boring movie Kathryn Bigelow ever made. But I give it some credit. I got more interested as it went along, and that’s better than the other way around.

This entry was posted on Friday, January 18th, 2013 at 2:46 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

30 Responses to “The Weight of Water”

  1. I had a crush on Elizabeth Hurley as a kid after seeing Austin Powers, but unfortunately, her boobs are really nothing special

  2. It’s flawed, and it struggles to apply a sort of Rob Richardson / Oliver Stone 90s style to a story that doesn’t really justify it, but you gotta admire it’s sincerity and ambition. I wish KB would try more experiments like this.

  3. > I don’t know why, but I’m more into cliches like “I gotta get revenge on the guy that killed my wife” than “I really wanna fuck somebody that’s not my wife.”

    I think maybe you need to be faithfully married for several years to fully appreciate the latter described cliche. Cool review, hadn’t heard of this one.

  4. “As a kid”…

    Man, I feel old.

  5. Because this is a discussion of a classy film by a classy woman I will refrain from losing my shit in an attempt to defend Elizabeth Hurley’s boobs.

    I think affair-based drama is so resonant with people because most of us will never have to make Sophie’s choice, but everyone gets a chance to have some part in an affair somewhere down the road, and let’ be honest here most people totally blow that decision.

  6. Almost entirely off-topic:

    When I first watched this video that went online at Cracked.com earlier this week, it reminded me of this site and the way it tends to keep things classy vis-a-vis animal attraction to the opposite sex. And then this review made me think of that video. Ouroboros.


    And now back to dancing around Elizabeth Hurley’s boobs.

  7. I remember finding Mimi Rogers more attractive than Hurley when I saw Austin Powers. I also find current day Kathryn Bigelow more attractive than current day Elizabeth Hurley. So either I’ve got something against Elizabeth Hurley or I’ve got a thing for older woman, I’m not sure. Bigelow looks amazing for 61(!!??) though, fucking CIA should be investigating her – she obviously has access to some advanced alien technology or something.

    I would like to sincerely apologise for this post… Griff started it though :P

  8. Call me old-fashioned, but I think a man should go on at least three dates with a woman before he tells her how often he masturbates about her.

  9. I’m just not sure I can operate under those kind of restraints Mr M.

  10. I guess it depends on the girl. If it feels right, go with your heart. Or your…whatever.

  11. Mimi Rogers is indeed hot, ever seen Full Body Massage?

  12. I can’t believe I’m saying this but no, I’ve never heard of it. I think some….research may be in order.

  13. Griff, I know I’m not innocent but how bout no objectifying of women unless you also have something to contribute about the actual woman-directed, woman-starring movie? You already started the comments off in the shitter with your complaint that a gorgeous model’s boobs are too realistically sized for your standards. Let’s not get into unrelated massage movies now.

  14. finding women attractive is “objectifying” them?

    but you’re right, I have not seen this flick, so I should shut up

  15. Vern:

    see “Dead Calm”

    trust me

  16. one of the most unintentionally funny moments in movie history happens in Dead Calm


    Billy Zane getting the flare in his mouth, fucking hilarious

  17. Griff, I’d say your line about Hurley’s boobs being “nothing special” would count as “objectifying” a woman.

  18. I don’t think so, is a woman saying a guy doesn’t have impressive abs or whatever “objectifying” men?

    and I didn’t say they were BAD, just nothing special

    but for real, I’ll shut up about them

  19. Well, this is one of 2 Bigelow movies I have not yet seen. The premise certainly intrigues me, due to literary parallelism, well-developed women characters, ax-murdering, as well as the icing of the nipples, etc..

    Unfortunately, I now suffer from a near-blind rage when it comes to assessing the works of ex-Mrs. Cameron (not a sexist, male-oriented reduction of her personage in my opinion). I am *not* one of the “horses pulling [her] bandwagon” at this time. It’s weird; I don’t want her to fail, but I want her to do better, and, more than anything, for her fans & audience to do better in how they assess her supremely epically ill-advised, monstrously bad movies.


  20. Gotta give her POINT BREAK credit for the awesome site quote du jour, though.


  21. I would check out this film every so often at the local dvd rental place. Looking back I don’t know why I rented it so many times. Must have been seeing Hurley run around in her bikini. Not to mention Sarah Polley and Vinessa Shaw.

    I did like where Kathryn was going with this but was always confused on what she was trying to say with the Penn and Hurley characters toward the end.

  22. Hey Griff, I know you’re young and you haven’t had a lot of experience with women, but YES you were objectifying women and trying to throw in a false equivalency like “what if a woman said X to a man” isn’t helping. Our culture constantly tells women that their appearance is the most important thing they have to offer, and by bringing up a woman’s appearance where it’s not relevant (even when it’s a compliment) you’re contributing to that toxic atmosphere. So try to cool it.

  23. I know it’s not a popular opinion or that great of a movie, but Strange Days is my favorite Bigelow film. I can’t access the archives. Has Vern reviewed it here?

  24. You can’t access All Reviews? What happens when you click Reviews in the menu bar? STRANGE DAYS was definitely reviewed and appears on multiple Reviews pages: Alphabetical, Years, Timeline and more.

  25. I actually agree that Strange Days might very well be my favorite Bigelow film. Of course, I tend to like stories set in a cyberpunk/future noir universe. I’m also partial to movies that take place within a very limited time frame. So I was predisposed to enjoy Strange Days. You can find Vern’s review in the archives (I just reread it). Spoiler: it’s really good.

  26. BR-

    I came to post the same thing. Dead Calm is my favorite sailboat thriller. Neal, Zane and Kidman was a pretty primo lineup at the time.

  27. Well, i finally found a Kathryn Bigelow movie I didn’t like at all – it’s really slow and dull and watching it felt like doing homework, despite the eye candy of Hurley on display. This is the type of movie that you keep checking its wikipedia entry every once in a while just to make sure you’re up to speed on the plot (and it’s not like the plot is even that complex – it’s just so dull you feel like you must be missing something).

  28. Hey movie reviewer Vern! I suggest you watch the movies you are posting about more carefully. You have made many mistakes regarding your plot descriptions. In the Weight of Water, Maren is in love with her brother NOT her brother-in-law. They had been having an incestuous relationship in Norway and is excited to see him again but disappointed when discovering he had married Anethe without notifying her. It’s an important distinction and one vital to the movie.

  29. Thanks for the correction, movie review reader Joy.

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