By Ross Williams | October 28, 2002

Sean Penn could read a calculus textbook and almost make it interesting, however even his presence can not save the dreadful “Weight of Water”. It has been six years since action director Kathryn Bigelow’s “Strange Days” and perhaps for her come-back she should have stuck to something a little more familiar. “Weight of Water” tries to be a murder mystery, a colonial period piece and a relationship drama, none of the genres work.
Based on the true story of the Isle of Shoals murders. Yeah I’ve never heard of it either, but apparently what happened was two young sisters were killed by a German fisherman with an ax. Louis Wagner hanged for this crime and a controversy has been “raging” ever since. Was he the man who really did it?! Da.. da.. duhnnn.
Now in the present and over a 125 years later, the fictional Jean James (Catherine McCormack), a photo-journalist is on assignment photographing this island of death. While shooting her pictures she decides to do some investigational snooping of her own. Along for the ride are her husband Thomas (Sean Penn), his brother Rich (Josh Lucas) and Rich’s girlfriend Adaline (Elizabeth Hurley). They’re all out on Rich’s boat having a vacation while Jean is supposedly working (I think I saw her take two photos), and you know what they say; “Don’t mix business with pleasure.”
The characters; Rich is content with living the life of a wealthy playboy. Thomas is a Pulitzer prize winning poet and a general egotistical bastard. Adaline is happy lounging around in a skimpy bikini, her infatuation with Thomas is the reason she’s with Rich. Jean spends most of the film scowling over the fact that Adaline’s days consist of her laying about mostly naked and that it grabs Thomas’s eyes. That’s about it, you just don’t care about any of these characters, as none of them are very likeable, or that well developed.
Within flashbacks and visions and dream sequences inside flashbacks and so-forth (it’s all very disjointed), the story of the murders takes place. A young women, Maren (Sarah Polley), comes to America with her much older husband John. They set about making a home in this small fishing community off the coast of Maine. Soon Maren’s sister is living in the small house. Then Louis, the “killer”, moves into the attic. Finally Maren’s brother Evan and his trophy wife Karen come to stay under the tiny roof. Maren and Evan share a “horrible” secret, that he wants to forget and she won’t let go. This leads to much “tension” in the house. It’s all one unhappy family.
This entire plot-line is shown in such a jumbled, backwards way, out of order and from different points of view, we see the same scenes over and over. It is difficult, well not difficult… you don’t care enough about any of these people, that you don’t want to take the trouble to put it all together. Also it is so obvious as to who the real killer is, that it takes all the fun out of these already dull scenes.
The filmmakers try to build up these parallels between the two female leads. How they are both in loveless marriages and their jealousy towards these beautiful women in their lovers lives. But as soon as we start to care in the least about either of these women, they cut over to the other story line, throwing us off and out of caring. Also none of the films other characters seem to have any concern about these psychologically scarred women. So why should we?
“Weight of Water” has way too much story going on for it’s own good. None of the characters or plot-lines are fleshed-out enough to build any interest. I imagine there is at least an hours worth of cut footage sitting on the editor’s floor, but I don’t know if it could have helped, it probably would have just dragged out the boredom.
To tell the truth, the only thing that grabbed my undivided attention the entire film was a mostly nude Elizabeth Hurley and her moment spent with an ice cube. Now that’s entertainment!

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