Tagline: They say we all lose 21 grams at the exact moment of our death… everyone. The weight of a stack of nickels. The weight of a chocolate bar. The weight of a hummingbird…
Synopsis: When the lives of three disparate people cross paths the result is wide and far-reaching collateral damage. Paul Rivers, a math teacher with a bad heart in a loveless marriage, upper-middle-class housewife Christina Peck, and ex-convict found Jesus Jack Jordan are brought together by a terrible accident that will change their lives forever.
Meat & Potatoes: Flawless! I’ve watched this film more times than I can count and each time I find something that draws me in, connects me with the characters and pushes me to the screen to absorb that place in each of our lives where triumph and devastation are one. Many people have complained about the editing choices, the frantic often disjointed assemblage of events (a style often attributed to Quentin Tarantino and the early 90s with the debut of Reservoir Dogs – which I highly recommend). Unlike other films, however Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s direction and Guillermo Arriaga‘s script accentuate one another and make this film pay off in big ways. You might recall Iñárritu . Arriaga’s resume includes Babel (2006), The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005) Powder Keg (2001) and Amores perros (2000) as Guillermo Arriaga Jordán – which all make my list of films to watch.
Even the selection of Danny Huston (who was brilliant as Arthur Burns in The Proposition with Guy Pierce) as the doomed father character and Eddie Marsan as the hip street counselor are tactile and effective in legitimizing a world that is obviously turned inside out. This place is familiar because it is rocked by tragic and unforeseeable events that might as well be taken from our daily newspapers. Man with bad heart receives traffic accident victims organ donation, then falls in love with the dead man’s wife. Guillermo Arriaga Jordan’s script is a beautiful and painful story that resonates with believable emotions in a world full of damaged people. Sean Penn is at once an everyman struck down at what might be his prime only to become a herald for irrational behavior that leads him to heartfelt self-destruction – who can’t identify with that? Penn delivers and Naomi Watts has never been better. Watch her in Marc Forsters film Stay for a subdued, albeit flawed wife struggling to grasp the shattering life of her husband.
Bits & Bytes: For further information regarding the BMW series, The Hire you can find a nice clip on YouTube with commentary by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Powder Keg is part of the BMW film series, The Hire which included eight short films (each about eight minutes long, on average) produced for the Internet in 2001 and 2002. The Hire is a form of branded content, featuring popular directors and stars Clive Owen as the “Driver”, and highlighted the performance aspects of various BMW automobiles.
The Closer: 21 Grams takes the very comfortable expectations of traditional, narrative story telling and shatters it. Alejandro González Iñárritu mines every fragment, juxtaposing them side by side in often inexact patterns, and ultimately arrives at a film that is every bit as much about catharsis as a commentary on the marriage between the frivolity and consequence of action. Watch it and then watch it again.