The M/C Review: ‘Remember Me’ surprises in ways both good and bad

03.12.10 9 years ago 4 Comments

I’ve been rough on the “Twilight” films in print so far, and that new trailer for “Eclipse” looks like a whole lot of the same, but just because someone’s in one of those films, or involved in one of those films, I’m not the sort of person who would dismiss them entirely.  Kristen Stewart has absolutely had other worthwhile moments on film in movies like “Into The Wild,” “Adventureland,’ and the upcoming “The Runaways.”  It would be silly to judge her entirely on the work she does as Bella Swan.

The same is true of her co-star Robert Pattinson, who has a rabid fanbase, but who so far has yet to prove he can draw an audience outside of “Twilight,” and who I’ve never seen in a big enough role to judge one way or another.

The good news for his fans is that Pattinson is a real actor, an interesting guy capable of making some really intriguing choices on film, and if he can survive the “Twilight” series without developing a hatred of stardom, then he may well evolve into someone of real merit and weight.  He is charismatic and charming in much of “Remember Me,” and he works overtime to bring an emotional honesty to the role he plays.  He creates a solid onscreen rapport with his co-star Emilie de Ravin, and he really throws himself into his big scenes.

The bad news for his fans is that they have to content themselves with good work in a ridiculous film.  “Remember Me” is one of those movies (and there’s another one this month) that works well on its own terms, more than accomplishing its modest goals, until it makes a third-act home-stretch that goes totally off the rails.  Be warned… it’s hard to talk about the film with any sort of critical coherence without explicitly discussing what choices the film makes in its final minutes, so if you’d rather read this review after spoilers won’t bother you, then be warned.

In a way, you can’t pretend that the film does anything less than explicitly warn you what the ending will be in a thematic sense.  “Remember Me” is the story of a guy named Tyler and a girl named Ally who find each other in the shadow of personal tragedy, using the fact that they both have this shared pain as a common starting point in the attempt to use love as a healing force.  They spend a long lazy summer working through all the old pains and sorrows, and just as they accomplish a sort of peace and happiness, they are reminded once again how cruel the world can be.  The film ends in a general sense in the only way that it could end.  But the specific tragedy that writer Will Fetter uses is, frankly speaking, insane.  And the way it’s executed is one of those you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it crazy moves that people will marvel at in the future.  It is tasteless to such a degree that it’s impressive.

It’s so hard to get right in a film, but showing how a couple falls in love, showing the details that push them together, the moments where they connect in a way that is significant… that’s something that can be incredibly potent on film.  I thougth “Blue Valentine,” a film I saw at Sundance, really worked in an effort to show how two people could connect deeply, while “Remember Me” falls back on some easy shorthand.  Even so, Emilie de Ravin and Robert Pattinson connect on film enough to sell the weak scripting.  Both of these actors seem to be completely dedicated to what they’re playing.  It’s the best work I’ve seen de Ravin do in anything, and I say that as a big fan of “Lost.”  He moves through the film like he considers this is “Rebel Without A Cause,” and since both he and de Ravin have to contend with their fathers (Pierce Brosnan and Chris Cooper, repectively) as major parts of their pain in the film, the “Rebel” comparison is particularly apt.

The entire cast does solid work, with Brosnan impressing me and surprising me as much as Pattinson.  Sometimes, I find Brosnan too mannered, but he’s really good here.  Allen Coulter, who directed the film, is a big TV guy.  I know his name from his time on “The Sopranos,” and he does everything he can to inject the film with a fresh energy, with some real gravitas, and to make it all come together.  He tries desperately to earn the ending, but he can’t.  No one could have.  The script just doesn’t give him room.

Overall, fans of Pattinson have already made their minds up, and that new “Twilight” preview in front of this will inspire some big box-office from them.  But I think many of them will be really taken aback with the film’s conclusion, and it’s not what they think they’re going to see.  That sort of bait-and-switch can be dangerous for a movie, and we’ll see what happens as audiences get a look at the film this weekend.  I just know I could feel the air go out of the room when I saw it.  People were jarred by the transition into the last moments, and several of them reacted audibly, something that will play out again and again as this fitfully-successful film delivers its bizarre payload.

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