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Marshall Fine

Marshall Fine

Posted: March 11, 2010 09:03 AM

HuffPost Review: Remember Me

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As a joke, I once had a roll of stickers printed up, which I employed to express a certain bewilderment with the world. They were bright orange and they contained a single question:

"Whose stupid idea was this?"

You can see the myriad applications. Were it possible to apply them to movies, I'd have run out a long time ago -- though certainly one could easily be resurrected for Remember Me, a movie for which those stickers were made.

Starring Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame (will that, finally, be his epitaph?) and Emilie de Ravin from Lost, Remember Me is a movie so weak in its plotting and general intelligence that it uses 9/11 as its climax -- as in, "Oh no, which character is going to wind up in the Twin Towers on Sept. 11?", thus saving writer Will Fetters the trouble of actually coming up with an ending.

Not that there is one he might have come to. Remember Me is limp and witless, a romantic drama with occasional attempts at humor that has all the body of chicken noodle soup. It blends a variety of elements - star-crossed lovers, class clash, the guilt of the well-off, the struggle of lovers who both have father issues. And what it makes out of them is a hash.

Pattinson, whose dreamy eyes and gawky height are reminiscent of a young Brendan Fraser, plays Tyler, scion of a powerful corporate lawyer (the ubiquitous Pierce Brosnan) who hates Dad because he's so absent. Tyler has a young sister, who still lives with their mother (the underemployed Lena Olin) -- now divorced from the icy pater familias and remarried -- and Tyler resents Dad for ignoring her, too.

Ally (de Ravin) is the daughter of a cop (Chris Cooper). In the film's prologue, we see her 15 years earlier on a subway platform with her mother, who is robbed and shot by a pair of hoodlums. Now Ally is an NYU student and Dad is a gruff, overprotective parent.

One night Tyler and his obnoxious roommate Aidan (Tate Ellington) intervene in a street fight in the Village. When the cops arrive, they make the wrong assumption about who started what, so the earnest Tyler jumps in to clear things up and, instead, earns a beating from Ally's dad.

To get even, obnoxious Aidan points out the mean cop's good-looking daughter in the school cafeteria and aims Tyler at her, like some poon-seeking missile. Instead, the overly sensitive Tyler starts dating her and they fall in love.

Which, of course, means that there's a secret between them that will, eventually, put them asunder. It's a tired and inevitable trope, the one that ensures instant breakup when it's discovered, which it is -- but not before you've had to sit through far too much of this film.

There's the revelation, for example, that Tyler's idolized older brother committed suicide, and Ice Dad seemingly didn't react. There's little sister's social awkwardness among the rich kids, who seemingly sexually abuse her during a sleepover. But, mostly, there are long, moony sequences of Tyler and Ally falling in love. Zzzz.

Like Fraser, Pattinson isn't much of an actor, though he's better here than he was in the dreadful Little Ashes, where he camped his way through a portrayal of Salvador Dali. Pattinson has a sleepy-eyed, slump-shouldered ennui, as if he's petulant about being good-looking. But he's not served by a script that makes him too sensitive to live, too eager to right perceived wrongs before they've even been, well, wronged.

De Ravin is better but, like Pattinson, she's only got a character-type to play -- spunky female student who's empowered herself -- and not really an actual character. The adults in the cast -- Brosnan, Cooper, Lena Olin -- are like posts on a bumper-pool table: there strictly for the pretty young things to bounce off.

Tying a plot finale (as opposed to a plot beginning) to a massive historical moment like 9/11 is iffy business. For one thing, you risk looking small by comparison (though the purpose, obviously, is to show the characters as tiny figures buffeted by history). For another, it changes the subject completely, whether you mean it to or not. Few are the films (for example, Little Big Man and Custer's Last Stand) that surpass and incorporate the major incident unscathed.

But really, you don't need to bring 9/11 into the discussion to recognize how puny and minor a piece Remember Me turns out to be. And even an exclamation point in the title wouldn't have made it come true.

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