Monday, March 15, 2010

Movie Review: Remember Me

Remember Me *
Directed By:
Allen Coulter.
Written By: Will Fetters.
Starring: Robert Pattinson (Tyler Hawkins), Emilie de Ravin (Ally Craig), Pierce Brosnan (Charles Hawkins), Chris Cooper (Sgt. Neil Craig), Ruby Jerins (Caroline Hawkins), Tate Ellington (Aidan Hall), Lena Olin (Diane Hirsch), Gregory Jbara (Les Hirsch).

SPOILER WARNING: This review discusses the end of Remember Me, which I felt I had to discuss, or else the review would be meaningless. It doesn’t explicitly state the end until the sixth paragraph, but smart readers would probably be able to piece together more much earlier, so if you plan to see the movie, and want no idea what is going to happen, you will want to stop reading now, and come back after you have seen the film. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Remember Me could have easily been dismissed as yet another tear jerker aimed at teenage girls had it not been for the sucker punch of an ending. Up until the final 10 minutes of the movie, Remember Me is a subpar romantic drama in which Robert Pattinson tries in vain to channel James Dean, and the rest of the cast simply allows him to brood. But the end of the film is a cheap shot – a clear attempt to illicit tears that the movie has not earned, and should not be exploiting.

The movie stars Robert Pattinson as Tyler – one of those spoiled rich kids, resentful of his powerful father Charles (Pierce Brosnan) who is slumming his way through university in New York living in a rundown apartment with his fun loving friend Aidan (Tate Ellington). Tyler broods at every opportunity, reading books, smoking cigarettes, drinking, having one night stands and having perfectly tossled hair – all the trademarks of the cinematic “bad boy”. Aside of Aidan, the only person he truly seems to care about his 11 year old sister Caroline (Ruby Jerins). He seems to get along with his mother (Lena Olin), although she is so thinly written, it really is hard to tell.

One night, he gets into a fight outside a bar, and gets roughed up a bit by the cop arresting him, Neil Craig (Chris Cooper). We know from the film’s opening scene that Craig’s wife was murdered 10 years ago right in front of his daughter Ally (played as a grown up by Emile de Ravin). When Aidan finds out that the cop who roughed them up has a daughter going to the same school, he pressures Tyler into putting his bad boys moves on her – hoping that Tyler will screw her over just like he does with every other girl – to get some revenge. But to everyone’s surprise, Tyler and Ally fall in love. They now have this secret hanging over their relationship that we know at some point will come out.

The movie progresses just like we expect it would. Tyler doesn’t much care that his father ignores him, or that he seems to have forgotten about his other son who killed himself, but hates the fact that he ignores Caroline, who is having a lot of problems of her own. There are fights and accusations flying both ways and this is mirrored in Ally’s relationship to her father – who has held onto his daughter too tightly in the years since her mother’s death.

I think that Remember Me is trying very hard to be a movie like something based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. Like those movies – including The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe and the recent Dead John – this is not a romantic comedy, but a romantic drama, one that tries to play things realistically – although I persist in thinking that real life doesn’t work like this. Since we are introduced to loss early in the movie – through the murder of Ally’s mother, and the references to Tyler’s brother suicide – we expect that something bad is going to happen to one of the characters in this movie as well. Sparks would have it no other way.

But even Sparks would not sink to the level that Remember Me does (and this is where I will remind readers of the SPOILER WARNING at the top of the review). The movie is set in 2001, something we know, although the movie doesn’t really address the year (at the beginning of the movie, it says it is 1991, and then we get one of those “10 Years Later” title cards), and since this is New York, you can tell what is going to happen. Tyler goes to his dad’s office to talk to the lawyers about his most recent arrest. His dad is late, so he waits for him. It’s during this montage, when we see Caroline’s teacher write the date – September 11, 2001 – on the chalk board, and then we get a shot of Tyler looking out his father’s window, and then the camera steadily pulls back to reveal – shock! – that Tyler’s dad’s office is in the World Trade Center. You can guess the rest.

I do not have a problem with using 9/11 in a movie – but I do think that a movie that does use it, needs to treat it with the proper respect, and not just as a sucker punch to the gut. Both Paul Greengrass’ United 93 and Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center set their entire movies on that day (and the immediate aftermath), but did so with respect. Likewise, Mike Binder’s Reign Over Me looked at the after affects of a man who lost his family in the attacks, but again, does so with respect. Remember Me uses it as a sucker punch – a cheap way to illicit tears the movie has not earned from its audience.

The movie is, of course, more than just the ending. It should be said that Pattison is significantly better here than he was in either Twilight movie, although he still isn’t a very good actor in my mind. He’s like Hayden Christenson who has rarely been able to hold the camera’s attention with anything but his blank good looks. Emile de Ravin is much better, making Ally into a real person, who we truly do care about, despite the clich├ęs her character is saddled with. Pierce Brosnan and Chris Cooper pretty much sleepwalk through their roles as two different, but equally bad, fathers. The best performance could very well be by young Jerins, who we truly do get to love as Tyler’s younger sister.

But whatever good there is in the movie is undone by the ending. Directed by Allan Coulter (Hollywoodland) and written by Will Fetters, Remember Me takes the cheapest, easiest way out. I may tire of the tear jerker formula put out there by Nicholas Sparks, but he never sank this low. Walking out of the theater, I couldn’t believe what I just saw. Has it truly come to this – that a mere 9 years after 9/11 it could be trivialized in such a way, but a movie like Remember Me? I guess so – but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

No comments:

Post a Comment