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'Weight of Water, The'

Friday, February 21, 2003

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Kathryn Bigelow, director of "K-19: The Widowmaker," goes back to the sea again with "The Weight of Water." She actually made "Weight" before the story of the jinxed Soviet submarine, but it's just now arriving in Pittsburgh for a run at the Oaks Theater.

 
 
'The Weight of Water'

RATING: R for violence, sexuality/nudity and brief language.

STARRING: Catherine McCormack, Sarah Polley, Sean Penn

DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow

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"Weight," based on the Anita Shreve novel of the same name, is a double-barreled story split between two time periods and two domestic dramas, both just a matchstick away from a firestorm. The first is 19th-century New Hampshire -- specifically the desolate Isles of Shoals that little resembles the land of opportunity its settlers anticipated -- and the other is present-day life aboard a sailboat headed for the spit of rock called Smuttynose Island.

That's where two Norwegian immigrants were bludgeoned and strangled in 1873 and where a contemporary photographer named Jean (Catherine McCormack) is headed. Although a man was arrested for the double killings, based largely on the testimony of survivor Maren Hontvedt (Sarah Polley), Jean doubts he was guilty.

Maren's passionless union increasingly shines a light on the fragility of Jean's marriage to a troubled poet. When Jean, her husband, his brother and a sexy sunbather find themselves caught in a deadly storm, she has a revelation about the rage and jealousy that fueled the double murder.

"Weight of Water" boasts a noteworthy ensemble -- in addition to McCormack and the riveting Polley, it includes Sean Penn, Elizabeth Hurley, Josh Lucas and the late Katrin Cartlidge -- but its flashback scenes are far stronger and more illuminating than its contemporary ones. And unlike in "K-19," where the creaks and groans of the sub spoke volumes, "Weight" bombards us with mood-establishing music.

The stories, past and present, may be parallel but one is far more shocking and powerful than the other. This boat feels as if it's listing to one side.


Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.

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