Remember Me lives and dies by its ending, a bold and provocative move by director Allen Coulter and screenwriter Will Fetters. It’s not really right for the movie, nor is it pulled off successfully – most viewers, I assume, will reject it on principle – but it’s such a left-field WTF that I have to tip my cap to the filmmakers.
Mild spoiler note: I need to talk about the ending down below – it so engulfs the proceedings that the rest of the film becomes irrelevant – but will carefully dance around it to avoid spoilers. Beware other reviews, which reveal far too much far too casually: Kirk Honeycutt spoiled the ending for me in his opening graph for the Hollywood Reporter, an ending I wouldn’t have otherwise seen coming.
The rest of Remember Me: it’s routine stuff, filled with romance clichés and plot devices. No points for Fetters’ script – outside the last few pages – but director Coulter (a veteran TV pro who previously made the underrated Hollywoodland) has put it together surprisingly well. Outside of a saggy midsection, devoid of much plot movement, where things really start to drag.
He’s aided by a strong cast, particularly the supporting players, who, we think, are better than this type of material calls for. They include Chris Cooper as a police detective whose wife was murdered 10 years ago in front of his daughter’s eyes. And Pierce Brosnan as a high-powered businessman who devotes his life to his company over his family; his eldest son killed himself a few years ago.
Both actors are excellent, but Remember Me focuses on their offspring, played by hot young flavors of the month: Emilie de Ravin (Lost) is Ally Craig, the good-girl daughter of overprotective Sgt. Neil Craig (Cooper), and Robert Pattinson (Twilight‘s Edward Cullen) is Tyler Hawkins, brooding son of the Brosnan character.
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: they meet through a series of coincidences, he keeps something from her, they fall in love, she finds out, they separate, only to get back together by the end. It’s what, the same plot we’ve seen in every Hollywood Romance for the past 30 years, and frankly, I’m sick of it; in Remember Me, it’s particularly distracting, because we can see the plot just sitting there spinning it’s wheels: none of it makes sense, nothing that happens progresses logically. It’s all shoehorned into the formula.
Too bad, because there’s a lot of good here, including Pattinson and de Ravin, who are much better than I give them credit for (particularly de Ravin). Their romance is effective and believable when not intruded upon by the plot.
And then there’s that ending; I still don’t know what to make of it. I do know this: it doesn’t work in terms of the rest of the movie, but if the rest of the movie is conventional and (sometimes) boring do we want really it to work in those terms? The ending injects an external force upon the characters so powerful that it overshadows everything that has previously taken place; I’m not sure how I feel about it, or how the filmmakers want me to feel about it, but I’m glad there’s a gut-punch of originality here. If only other genre films would take note.
Fish-out-of-water, opposites-attract, throw some more stale clichés in the pot and you’ve got the wretched Leap Year, which is inexplicably getting a pass in some corners. Not from me; I hated the characters in this movie and I hated spending 90 minutes with them.
One of those characters, Anna Brady, is played by the always enchanting Amy Adams. It takes a lot of work for Adams to become a helpless, shrill, annoying stereotypical city girl, but she gets there. The other character, Declan, is played by Matthew Goode, who has put some good performances into some good movies; he’s the macho male asshole here, buried beneath a scruffy I-don’t-give-a-shit beard and a bad news attitude.
These characters are disgusting. The rom-com formula states that they have to hate each other first, then fall in love, but there’s this disturbing trend in recent films: the writers take things too far with obnoxious stereotyping, and the audience ends up hating both the characters. It usually happens in racier material (The Ugly Truth, What Happens in Vegas), but here’s a clean PG version, and I was similarly repulsed.
The Leap Year of the title is just a ruse, a meaningless plot device that is forgotten soon after it is introduced. Irish folklore states that a woman can propose to a man on the 29th of February; Anna’s hotshot cardiologist boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott, who usually plays a real prick, so you know something is off here) has failed to propose after four years together and happens to be in Dublin, so Anna sets off to join him by the 29th and pop the question.
But she doesn’t quite make it to Dublin: she finds herself in Dingle, Ireland due to inclement weather, and the only bartender/hotelier/cabbie in town is the arrogant Declan, who wants little to do with Anna but needs some quick cash. This leads to all the usual rom-com setups, including a stop at a B&B that will only take in a married couple, and a lovely view of the Irish countryside.
The two leads start off hating each other, and then…well, they’re pretty convincing in their hatred for each other. So convincing, in fact, that by the end I wouldn’t have been surprised to see them not end up with each other; the only thing speaking for a relationship between them is plot contrivance, this being a romantic comedy and all.
Leap Year was directed by Anand Tucker, who has done far better work, including a third of last year’s excellent Red Riding trilogy. Script by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont (Made of Honor, Surviving Christmas) should bear most of the blame – this is awful cookie-cutter stuff that does no favors for anyone involved.
John Lithgow, who receives top billing here, shows up for about 5 lines as Anna’s father.
Mathieu Kassovitz’s Babylon A.D. is not without some interesting elements, but, nah, don’t even bother – it’s a complete mess. There’s an intriguing futuristic design – notably that of New York City, which comes into play too late in the film – and the germ of some potentially fascinating material, but it’s all thrown into a blender and the resulting film completely lacks cohesion.
But do note: it comes very close to the so-bad-it’s-good category, and Vin Diesel’s final line had me in stitches; I haven’t had this much fun with a bad movie since Frank Miller’s The Spirit. While bad movie fans should be able to appreciate, it’s a real muddle for everyone else.
A muddle starring Vin Diesel, who plays your usual bounty hunter/transporter/courier/man with no name. Except here they gave him the most ridiculous name they could come up with: Toorop. Yes, Toorop, which everyone in the multicultural cast has a unique pronunciation for, from Turok (Dinosaur Hunter) to Tupac.
Now, this is the future, meaning it’s the same as the present except grimier and with better technology. For undisclosed reasons, Toorop is hired/blackmailed into escorting a young girl from Mongolia to New York City. The client/blackmailer is a Russian mobster named Gorsky, played by Gérard Depardieu. Depardieu, knowing what kind of movie he’s in, is over-the-top awful.
The rest of cast, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to know what kind of movie this is, and peck away at their awful dialogue with methodical precision. Diesel is his usual stone-faced, monotone self, and he’s joined in emotionless line-stumbling by Mélanie Thierry, who plays Aurora, the girl he’s escorting, and Michelle Yeoh as Rebekah, her escort.
What’s the point of their journey? We don’t know throughout the first two acts, only that it’s something important, as Aurora seems to have unspecified powers. The writers think they’re being effective by holding their revelations till the end, but in reality, they’re only draining the rest of the film of any kind of suspense; we don’t know what’s going on, nor do we care.
Then everything is revealed, and we realize why it was kept hush-hush: it’s a huge clusterfuck of illogical nonsense involving artificial intelligence, clones, religion, and virgin births. It makes absolutely zero sense within the logic of the film and it’s futuristic setting. And it introduces another terrible performance, this time from a great actress, Charlotte Rampling, who is forced to spew out a lot of the nonsense.
The last 15 minutes of Babylon A.D. are madness, a clear sign that something went horribly, horribly wrong during the making (and editing) of the film. Director Kassovitz has disowned the final product, which has killed off his Hollywood career; let’s hope he goes back to making films like La Haine.
There’s a longstanding tradition of studio interference in big-budget sci-fi (see: Brazil) but I doubt this one had much of a chance from the outset. The production itself, however, is mostly first-rate; there’s certainly a lot of money up there on the screen.
(Babylon A.D. is hitting Prague cinemas some eighteen months after it was released throughout the rest of the world. Of all the films to resurrect…)
Also opening: I Love You Phillip Morris (showtimes | IMDb), a gay-themed drama starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor that played at Sundance 2009 but has yet to secure a release in the US. Screening in English with Czech subtitles; I’m currently in the states and haven’t had a chance to catch it.