Screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga to director Alejandro González Iñárritu:
- I have an idea: let’s make a relentlessly grim, gray movie with lots of joyless mechanistic substance abuse (nicotine, alcohol, cocaine, religion) about the lives of a weak woman (Naomi Watts) who loses her husband and two young daughters to a hit-and-run car accident committed by a reformed ne’er-do-well (Benicio Del Toro); and the dispirited dying man (Sean Penn) who receives the heart of the dead husband in a transplant, rejects his wife and stalks the despondent widow, who in turn decides that Del Toro – who had turned himself in for the crime only to be set free due to lack of eyewitnesses and contradictory evidence – needs to be killed for his crime and importunes Penn to do same.
And we’ll tell the tale in cut-up, back-and-forth in time, threads-coming-together-in-an-explosive-climax style, only we’ll make sure that no one invests emotionally in our characters so they really don’t give a shit about the way we cleverly tie the plot points together at the end because they are sick of the whole thing long before then anyway.
Come on – it’ll be fun!
My wife once again entered the video store, saw the words “Academy Award nomination” (Watts for best actress, Del Toro for best supporting actor, who were both, indeed, outstanding), went into a trance, rented the DVD, foisted it upon an unsuspecting household, then said, “I give up, you pick out the movies from now on,” about 3/4 of the way through this turgid, 2-hour slog through utterly humorless bleakness.
Okay, I did care to a certain extent about the Del Toro character, who was a decent guy attempting to do the right thing and live the right way with the full force of callous fate tossed in his careworn, haunted face; but I really just wanted it all to go away, which it eventually did.