Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Premonition


Feels Familiar

It’s time once again to return to that place between light and shadow, between science and superstition, between non-linear plots and time travel to save a loved one. Yep, it’s Twilight Zone turf, this time with plucky Sandra Bullock as a wife and mother who seems to be time-tripping back and forth around the day that her husband dies in Premonition. I like Sandra Bullock, and I like funky timelines. What I don’t like are screenplays that break their own rules and filmmakers who condescend to their audience.

Housewife Linda Hanson (Bullock), is jarred from her seemingly happy life by terrible news: her husband (Julian McMahon) has just been killed in a car accident. After trying to cope (and telling her two young daughters) she falls asleep only to awaken to her now-alive husband, several days before he is to crash. Upon waking again, she is back to the future, where he is dead and about to be buried, which she refuses to accept. What is going on here, and how can Linda save her husband before she goes mad?

If this plot sounds confusing, it really isn’t. What is setup in the first act is that she wakes up forward in time, then back, then forward plus one day, then back plus one day, etc. What is confusing is why screenwriter Bill Kelly (Blast from the Past) decides to abandon this formula just when things are getting interesting. Something not fun happens to Linda and I wanted to see how she gets out of it. Instead, we get a cheat where she goes back when she should be going forward. With the pattern broken, I cared a lot less about what would happen.

Another glaring problem is the way that director Mennan Yapo thinks everyone watching this movie is stupid. We get lots of “help” in the form of pointless flashbacks and repeated dialogue ethereally whispered in the soundtrack. I also hate the way he over-emphasizes emotional moments by shaking his camera like someone who drank way to much coffee. Bullock’s facial expression in reaction to her husband's death is perfect, but Yapo ruins the moment by jittering the lens ad nasueum.

While I can’t really give this movie a favorable review, it’s not all bad. Bullock (The Lake House) is always likeable and you have instant sympathy for her character. There is also some genuine suspense in the film, like the moment when Bullock approaches her daughter facing away from the camera on a swingset (she reaches for her shoulder...). Finally, the movie has a real pro-religion and pro-family message that while heavy-handed at times, is a breath of fresh air compared to what usually comes out of Hollywood.

Premonition could have and should have been a satisfying tale of disorientation, mystery and mania. Instead, it cheats and jerks you around and while it isn’t a complete train wreck, you keep wishing that cow wasn’t on the track to mess things up.

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