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Overall Rating
3.75

Awesome34.72%
Worth A Look: 24.31%
Average: 26.39%
Pretty Bad: 10.42%
Total Crap: 4.17%

13 reviews, 66 user ratings


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21 Grams
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by Josh Gryniewicz

"A cinematic meditation on phenomenological memory"
4 stars

21 Grams is a jarring, scrambled cinematic work of mathematical metaphor, mixing modern philosophical explorations of grief, retribution, and redemption into a disjointed narrative.

The movie revolves around three strangers: Christina Peck (Naomi Watts), a recovering drug addict turned suburban mother and wife, Paul Rivers (Sean Penn), a mathematics professor whose heart and marriage are both failing, and Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro), an ex-con who has become a born again Christian. On the surface, the plot centers around a tragic accident that brings their lives together, but beneath that, the film is a psychological meditation on life's chaotic traumas and the way people struggle to cope: through addiction, through religion, or through science.

These stories are delivered in a non-sequential disorder reminiscent of Christopher Nolan's Memento. After the film, my girlfriend and I wondered if the impact would have been as strong if it was told "normally". Reconstructing the story in a linear pattern, it seemed to be more than just a genre shift from "Drama" to "Artistic Drama"—it seemed to lose all meaning. Here, writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu provides narrative vignettes, scattered throughout time, acting as a metaphor to the whole theme of the movie—each giving its own intense emotional texture. It symbolizes the philosophy of phenomenological memory/time (that memory is connected through emotional theme rather than a longitudinal structure) and the poetry of fractal images that reveal patterns within chaos.

21 Grams however, is defined by its stellar performances. Naomi Watts, who attended support group meetings to capture the essence of her character, uses every facial expression to demonstrate Christina's underlying weakness and the depths of her pain. Sean Penn, who was brilliant in the otherwise mediocre Mystic River, is not quite convincing as a mathematician. Penn renders a performance of existential agony that draws you into the character’s complexities but somehow doesn't quite follow through as a poetic professor of the quantum (a bad ass well read on math, maybe, but a professor, not really). Benicio Del Toro steals the show: his grief palpable, his agony stomach turning, and his performance painfully real.

The film's only fault is that its eagerness to keep to the metaphor sometimes comes at the expense of plot. At points, its stylish unfolding is so over-stretched that it becomes a burden, but overall the experimental motif and exceptional performances make it a work of art.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8348&reviewer=362
originally posted: 03/02/04 04:51:10
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User Comments

2/28/19 Courtney Love The sex scene between Sean Penn and Naomi Watts was filmed while her nipples were erect. 5 stars
12/29/17 morris campbell bleak & potent 4 stars
2/05/17 Aidan Butler Sean Penn character destroys logic of movie 3 stars
1/02/13 Davie bummer. 2 stars
11/26/10 Sia Shar one of great movies of the 2003 and the decade 5 stars
9/18/08 PAUL SHORTT CRUSHES ITS CHARACTERS UNDER ITS FOOT, THEN STEPS BACK & WANTS YOU TO LOOK AT THE MESS 1 stars
7/20/08 Shaun Wallner This movie was Awesome!! Loved It. 5 stars
12/21/07 Wendell O. Maness I love blood, want to drink it, love this movie 5 stars
12/06/06 andrew worst movie ever. boring and sux 1 stars
11/24/06 Charlene Javier Loved it as well 4 stars
6/25/06 MP Bartley Superb acting, but jumbled narrative is all veneer and no surface. 4 stars
4/12/06 anthonyuk superb and again sean penn shows his class 5 stars
11/22/05 Taylor Fladgate 4 Stars - but be sure to be ready to be depressed. Whoa. 4 stars
9/20/05 Indrid Cold Great use of a fractured narrative to spice up an otherwise ho-hum story. 5 stars
8/19/05 ES Broken time lines inmovie generally mean the director wasn't sure how to film it 3 stars
6/13/05 Agent Sands Plot order is as if PA dropped the script & had 2 shuffle it back together in a hurry. 4 stars
5/07/05 Vince Top notch cast and performances, editing seems random and as a result story is tedious 3 stars
4/09/05 K. Sear Nothing new but it delivers where other attempts fail. 4 stars
12/07/04 Orion Fascinating. More deeper that you think at first glance 5 stars
11/09/04 Matthew Wow..what an awesome movie! Naomi Watts rocks! 5 stars
9/03/04 Impey not too shaby 2 stars
8/28/04 capitalbliss Fantastic, I found the filming a little different but the movie is great!! 5 stars
8/12/04 kc finished the movie feeling...eh... 3 stars
8/01/04 Brad Gripping, great performances. 5 stars
7/17/04 Jim & Deborah incredible movie/fabulous directing and acting / "outside the box" so to speak. 5 stars
5/26/04 michele excellent! Del Toro's acting is hypnotic 5 stars
5/23/04 Monster W. Kung Good acting, but plot is tedious and the absurdly bleak and fractured approach don't help. 3 stars
5/17/04 elizaveta a really great out-of-order film. Sean Penn rocks, as ever. 5 stars
5/13/04  Shaun Rose Excellent movie with agreat cast, I reccomend to anybody who hasn't seen it 4 stars
4/23/04 Alex A good movie about life 5 stars
4/20/04 Phil M. Aficiando Mind jumbling pysche beater; great acting helps a lot, but.... 3 stars
4/07/04 A F Tried to hard to mess with the sequence 3 stars
4/05/04 Charlene Javier Proves that Amores Perros is no fluke! 5 stars
4/04/04 Vince Chan Finally, a non-linear movie that actually makes you THINK! 5 stars
3/31/04 The More You Know Like a challenge? Watch it - but be prepared! Josh G's take on it is helpful. 4 stars
3/28/04 Frank Lynch 21 Grams is a pretentious bore. 2 stars
3/25/04 Shelley Shea Sean Penn can do no wrong. 5 stars
3/24/04 Margie LOVED IT, LOVED IT!!! Naomi should have won the best actress oscar!!(I question the end) 5 stars
3/21/04 othree loved it, sadly, raw reminder of human natures +cast 4 stars
3/17/04 Holly Beeman I almost feel like it would have been more powerful in sequence, but he's got the tech! 4 stars
3/11/04 Matt Good performances but the story was just too slight to merit the style. 3 stars
2/27/04 Reini Urban +story, + cast, -camera 4 stars
2/26/04 Troy Butler Extremely emotional, ... amazing performances all round!!! TOP NOTCH!! 5 stars
1/29/04 Rapunzel Gladstone Poorly told story that would far and away be none too compelling if told well. 2 stars
1/28/04 marzio arigoni@rtsi.ch a punch in your stomach! Great performances, especially Watts and Del Toro, and editing 4 stars
1/27/04 Chloe Brody Not Sean's finest performance, but really powerful. Naomi deserves the Oscar! 4 stars
1/25/04 Smitty The most beautifully acted lousy movie I've ever seen 2 stars
1/23/04 Betty White Heavy, dark drama with grand performances. 4 stars
1/22/04 HAL You must think to understand this film and our thoughts are not linear. Fine film. 5 stars
1/21/04 Chronology The movie was based intense emotions and ideas, but is ruined by mixed chronology! 4 stars
1/20/04 Cheerleader who ran out of TP& has to wipe her ass with her pompoms Falls apart at uh, ending, or rather would if it had an ending. 2 stars
1/19/04 Gretchen Seitz "---" sucks! Since when is "no taste" a burnable in hell offense. 2 stars
1/19/04 the Grinch Typical movie you'd expect Sean Penn to be in...good script, but In The Bedroom it AINT 2 stars
1/17/04 john wonderful, great acting, camera technique, fine editing, beautiful work 5 stars
1/17/04 john bale Brilliant yet difficult gritty drama about Fate, great actors, grungy sets and camerawork 4 stars
1/12/04 KCobain Awful and depressing. Walked out after 45 minutes. 1 stars
1/03/04 Admiral Piett Sean Penn sucks donkey dick. 1 stars
12/31/03 --- Anyone who doesnt like this movie has no taste and should burn in hell 5 stars
12/30/03 ownerofdajoint if you like deep overlapping plots then you'll think this is a great movie;which it is 5 stars
12/20/03 AXE k 1 stars
12/15/03 Slo. Zombie This review just SUCKS !!! 21 grams AND Mystic river are two masterpieces of modern cinema! 5 stars
12/03/03 re A GREAT FILM 5 stars
11/30/03 Todd Stein A great film, interesting study of humans 4 stars
11/30/03 ajay tried to be cool with Memento-editing but it was overdone, confusing and masked a bad story 2 stars
11/23/03 smartmusician GREAT!!! 5 stars
11/22/03 benice save your money, worst movie of the year. 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-Nov-2003 (R)
  DVD: 03-Oct-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  22-Jan-2004




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