20 March 2007

I HAVE A VERY BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS

To the surprise of no-one at all, the new romantic time-travel thriller Premonition fails in almost every way, but there is one particular way in which it is extremely good and important: it is the English-language debut of director Mennan Yapo, whose name is fantastic. There should be more fantastically-named filmmakers.

But as a drama, as a work of cinema, as a vehicle for expressing theme: on all these counts, Premonition blows mightily. Walking out of the theater, I didn't understand what I was supposed to have taken away from the film: not that I didn't understand the plot, mind you, I was not sure what emotion I was expected to feel at the end of the film, nor did I have any idea what Yapo and his merry men were trying to say about fate and free will, or love, or quantum physics.

The plot involves AIEEE YARGGGGH T3ERQWT[W -KJ70=45IG7Y TWJG0SD NRB7! That was the representation of my brain cramping when I thought back upon the plot of Premonition.

Take it away, IMDb editors! "A housewife is shocked when her husband dies in a car crash and reappears the next day. She realizes it was a premonition and tries to avoid the tragedy." The housewife in question is Linda Hanson, played by Sandra Bullock, who really ought to know better. Think back to the hazy summer days of 2006, when a little picture called The Lake House was floating around the multiplexes. In that film, Bullock played a woman communicated two years into the past with Keanu Reeves via the Letterbox of Magical Realism, and the logic of cause-and-effect goes off and has a nice sit-down by the pool with a pitcher of mojitos. And yet it's a model of rigidly controlled speculative fiction compared to Premonition, which is all about Linda's quest to figure out what happened on each day of a very bad week, only to find answers that are internally inconsistent. Here is a mini-drama exploring just one thread of a very battered tapestry:
Enter Bloggre, a critick
Blg: "The movie begins on Thursday, and all is well."
The movie rattles on
Blg: "Zounds, on Saturday, this terrible injurie has occurr'd!"
The movie rattles on
Blg: "Here it is Tuesday, and we see the injurie in progress! Yet, sinse it has already been establish'd that all is well on Thursday, surely some great misterie will be discoueréd."
The movie rattles on
Blg: "Endeth the film without explaining why Thursday is fine if the injury was on Tuesday. I shall maintain the hope of an end-credits sequence twist."
The credits rattle on then stop, raise house lights
Blg: "Cunt."
Exeunt
That happens many times.

Plot holes happen, yeah, but when the exact specific point of your film is the uncovering of a mysterious chain of events, it would make sense to have that chain of events make a damn nugget of sense. And these aren't the quibbles of hours spent pondering the film. I counted at least a half-dozen similar cock-ups while I was sitting in the theater. And if I could count that high in 96 minutes, surely screenwriter Bill Kelly could have figured it out sometime in the days and hours it took him to write the damn thing.

Poor Sandra Bullock. Or not. She could have learned. But it shocking to me how all of a sudden she's a pretty good actress and she's wasting herself on mindless banalities like this. Consider this: between The Lake House and Premonition, she rocked the hell out of Harper Lee in Infamous, easily the best part of that film. And consider next that Infamous was delayed a year, and so she actually made the two timefuck movies right in a row. And don't get me wrong, she's personally very good in both of them - if Premonition had a core, it would be all because of her - but why ever can't she make a project that doesn't piss all over narrativity and then point and jump up and down while shouting, "Lookit how I pissed all over narrativity!"

What about my dear Mennan Yapo? Oh, that his directing were good as his name! But it's not. It's deeply serviceable. Except for some aerial shots that are really bad. Except for one aerial shot that's really fantastic, and I have absolutely no idea how it was done, but it's got this thing where the front side of a church is twisting one way and the back side is twisting another, and it looks like the church is folding in on itself. Anyway, this is profound hackwork: the camera keeps moving because static shots are boring or some such, not a single cut "means" anything, other than "oops, it's been six seconds!" And there's a storm sequence that is WAY TOO LOUD, because that is how you show that something is intense in a thriller. I hate having to review serviceable hackwork. There's not a goddamn thing you can say about it - "well, it sure is in focus! And there are no noticeable dips during zooms, like in the last Sandra Bullock time-travel picture! B+!" That's why I'm actually grateful for the screenplay: at least it's balls-out crazy enough that I can snark.

Anyway, the net effect of all this crushing mediocrity is that the film doesn't have any meaning. Not just because it's bad. Because at the very end, it's very obvious that there wasn't any point to anything. Is it about fighting fate? Not really. Is it about the loss of faith, as is very strongly suggested twice, including once in the last 60 seconds? Only if you ignore the plot, or redefine "what you want most" to mean "what you do not want at all." Is it about your husband is a cheating jerk and you deserve better? Only if you skip from the first reel to the last scene. Is it about moral choice? Only because Sandra Bullock is a much better actress than Yapo and Kelly deserve. God knows it's not about clever mind tricks, because an eight-year-old could out-think this movie.

Still: I am thankful to the movie. Because of Premonition, I have a new mantra to replace "snakes on a plane." Mennan Yapo.

Mennan Yapo.

Mennan Yapo.

3/10

3 comments:

Rebecca said...

Thank you for repeating what I said on 5:30 that morning with so much more amusing coherence. I particularly liked your depiction of my favorite plot hole.

Oh, and if you want yet another bad movie: in 6 years, I've never had so many people exiting an auditorium bad mouth a movie as much as they are with I Think I Love My Wife.

Alissmira said...

I was absolutly furious with this movie.

Premonition is literally the worst movie I have ever seen, from the obvious logical gaps in the plot, to the ending.

The ending sucked and I didn't give a rats ass about anyone at the end of the film.

I spat at my television in disgust that I wasted time out of my life to watch this horrible disaster.

Charlotte Creamer said...

I disagree that there wasn't any point to the progression of this movie. At the outset, the husband was doomed to die an adulterer and emotionally estranged from his wife and children. Instead, through the wife's determination (inspired by the priest's words) to bring love and joy and reconciliation to his final days, he died with a clear conscience, which is truly the best any of us can hope for. The point of the movie was not for the wife to prevent the husband's death but to do what she could to prepare his soul to meet its maker. Though unconscious of her mission, she accomplished it to the best of her ability, and therefore instead of being plunged into madness or twisted by bitterness, she accepted his death and quite literally "moved on". While I liked the movie, I felt it could have been a bit shorter.