Saturday, September 25, 2004

Movie Review: The Forgotten

United States, 2004
U.S. Release Date: 9/24/04
Running Time: 1:29
Rated: PG-13 (Violence, profanity, mature themes)
Cast: Julianne Moore, Anthony Edwards, Linus Roache, Gary Sinise, Dominic West, Alfre Woodard, Christopher Kovaleski

Director: Joseph Ruben
Producers: Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks, Joe Roth
Screenplay: Gerald Di Pego
Music: James Horner
Studio: Columbia Pictures

Posted by Hello
WARNING: This review contains some spoilers. Regardless, I recommend you read this review and skip seeing the film.

It has been said that viewers can usually decide if they like a film or not after the first ten minutes of its running time. In the case of The Forgotten, all is well within the first ten, but then again, you may find yourself just as impressed with the main character’s home furnishings as the early-established plot. Regrettably, once the train gets rolling, The Forgotten soon derails.

With the premise: a mother grieves over her lost son, and everyone she confides in (including her husband) tells her she never even had a baby, The Forgotten may sound like it’s a fresh and intriguing motion-picture. And, with an equally absorbing trailer, The Forgotten may appear just as promising as it sounds. However, due to its stiff screenplay and unclear ending, it turns out to be nothing more than an insipid piece of work in the fashion of a so-so episode of “The X-Files.”

It has been 14 months since Telly Paretta lost her son Sam in a plane crash, and she still remembers him every day of her being. Each day for at least an hour she goes into his room, pulls a few of his belongings (a baseball glove, a New York Mets cap, etc.) from his dresser drawer, and grieves. To help with her daily grieving, she sees a psychiatrist (Gary Sinese) who attempts to alleviate some of her distress over the unbearable loss. However, with her son always on her mind, nothing comforts her. She can’t let go of Sam; she can't forget him like everyone else has.

Suddenly, every remnant of Sam - including photos of him and all of his personal possessions - has been obliterated. To the common world, Sam does not exist; only in Telly’s mind does any memory of Sam linger. Telly is told that there never was a Sam, and that nine years ago she had a miscarriage. There is no proof of Sam's existence to be found other than in Telly’s own head. Is she crazy? Or is there a conspiracy behind the death of her son? With the help of Ash (Dominic West), another parent who comes to remember his child (under Telly’s convincing) when no one else does, Telly hopes to get to the bottom of both of their child’s deaths and figure out how both of them could be completely wiped out of everyone's memory except for theirs’. Is the government to blame, or is an incomprehensible power?

As expected, Julianne Moore plays her part well, but sadly her performance alone cannot help to lift this picture to a recommendable level. Truthfully, I am surprised that this former Oscar nominee even associated herself with this wishy-washy feature. No one else and nothing else makes this movie recommendable—except maybe the scares.

Director Joseph Ruben is a master of getting the audience’s heart racing; in other words, Joe knows jolts. In the past he has used his scare tactics in The Stepfather and The Good Son (two other familial focused films), and here with The Forgotten (a film all about the bond between a mother and her son) we are treated to at least two huge jump-out-of-your-seat scares (possibly three). I guarantee you: the only way you won’t jump is if you happen to be catatonic.

Truthfully, Ruben may implore a few shocking boos here and there, but where he peaks with shock value, he plummets to a monotonous degree elsewhere. With his repetitive aerial views that make the city look like a Petri dish, and his recurring camera angles that start looking down at a building at 45 degrees and then slowly drop parallel to the ground, The Forgotten’s camera work comes off as cyclic and dull. Also, it seems like Spizos (the cinematographer) is overly infatuated with the Brooklyn Bridge, because he inserts it into the background of just about every New York street scene. In all honesty, all through The Forgotten, not only are the director and cinematographer at fault for losing their focus, but the screenwriter is equally culpable.

Normally with psychological thrillers, people are on the edge of their seat throughout the film’s entirety—always trying to guess which way the film will bend – and considering this film has been advertised as “the biggest jaw-dropper since The Sixth Sense” – one would expect a pleasantly drastic twist. However, what you get is an anticlimactic, inadequate, and barely-noticeable turn in the plot that is almost laughable in a bizarre “Twilight Zone” kind-of way. Instead of buckling up for the ride as the picture progresses, the film shamefully buckles on itself.

By the end of The Forgotten, we may know where to point the finger (no pun intended), but so many questions still remain unanswered creating craters in the conclusion. In its closing act, The Forgotten charters into terrain claiming it’s all just an extraterrestrial experiment, but no details are given to explain any of the contrivance we already sat through. How did the entire nature of the world change? Exactly who was responsible? What was the purpose of the experiment? And, did the spatial scientists formulate a hypothesis and use the scientific method?

With The Forgotten, I put the scientific method to good use. I predicted the movie was going to be thrilling, chilling, and have a brain. Sadly, my hypothesis was disproved. The Forgotten works well with Moore’s professional performance and a few jolting shocks, but on every other level, this film will most likely result in disinterest and ennui. Unfortunately, The Forgotten and the term "tolerable" can only be correlated if the confounding factor of alcohol is present.

Dominic West’s character was the smart one. In the film he plays a drunk—proving that he knows the only way to get through this attention-grabbing yet extremely dissapointing picture is to be inebriated. Alcohol induces memory loss, and I assure you that you will agree: heaping portions of The Forgotten are better off not remembered. If you think it is worth it to sit through 87 minutes of a drama/sci-fi gimmick, all for yet another emotional portrayal from Miss Moore and two chances to jump out of your skin, be my guest. Otherwise, if you appreciate intelligent films, The Forgotten will most likely not even be stored in your short-term memory. (*1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004