'Remember Me'? Perhaps ...
James Rocchi, Special to MSN Movies
There's going to be a certain amount of controversy about the final moments of "Remember Me," as fairly generic young-love story plot points are given a very specific temporal and geographic location. I'm not going to spoil "Remember Me" for anyone, but I will say that the film tries mightily to earn its final moments, and while it doesn't always succeed, you can feel director Allen Coulter (of the moody, under-seen "Hollywoodland") and writer Will Fetters making an effort.
"Remember Me" takes place just after the turn of the millennium, and Ally Craig (Emilie de Ravin of TV's "Lost") is getting by day-by-day. The film opens with a flashback of Ally's mom being shot by two muggers right before her 11-year-old eyes, leaving her in the care of her loving-but-gruff cop father (Chris Cooper) for the past decade. One of Ally's NYU classmates is Tyler Hawkins (Robert Pattinson), a brooding, moody Byronesque maverick who's cut himself off from his wealthy, distant father Charles (Pierce Brosnan) and lives for his little sister Caroline (Ruby Jerins) and her happiness even in the light of their dad's aloofness and the shadow of a family tragedy.
So, yes, "Remember Me" is one in a long line of melodramas in which disparate characters in the big city are brought together by fate, a chance meeting means two strangers become lovers, the great world turns under it all and the problems of two little people don't add up to a hill of beans. This is familiar material, and has been for decades, and over the decades the films that have used it and stood out have done so as a matter of execution more than as a matter of plotting. Director Coulter, a lifelong New Yorker, fills the film with nice touches (Ally, hopping into a post-date cab, barks to the driver: "Queens, and I don't want to hear about it!") and, much like "The Wackness," "Remember Me" has a good ear for the sounds of a certain place in time. (Although, to be blunt, the thought of a film that uses Luscious Jackson, The Sea and Cake, and Supergrass to establish itself as a "period piece" makes me feel incredibly, appallingly old.)
But even on a familiar course where star-cross'd lovers suffer the blows and buffets of fate, "Remember Me" lacks a certain zing going down the track. Pattinson and de Ravin are excellent in their scenes with anyone but each other, and it's hard to tell if that lack of fizzle is because of misfires in the writing (with their relationship crowded out by their relationships) or a crueller, harder-to-quantify matter of simple chemistry. Watch Pattinson in his scenes with Jerins or even Brosnan (trying to hold his own, and succeeding more than failing, as he goes head-to-head with the older actor) and you get the sense that he's a talented actor who deserves to do more than pallidly patronize Kristen Stewart in the guise of undying romanticism. Opposite Cooper, de Ravin creates a real relationship, loving but wary, sweet but strained, that helps us understand her character, and his character, and both their choices. But the film feels like its own generic poster: Put two handsome people up close and it's assumed the audience will want to watch regardless of what they're doing, or why.
"Remember Me" will be talked about for its ending, no doubt. Even a cursory Web search will reveal it, as will many other reviews. And while that may not be fair to the film, it's certainly going to happen. But more importantly, the film gives both Pattinson and de Ravin the opportunity to show that they're more than just their big, paranormal franchises, and despite their scenes together lacking a certain spark, their scenes with the rest of the film's strong ensemble (Brosnan and Cooper are, as ever, good, while Jerins is superb) prove they can, and should, have acting careers outside of the realm of the undead or the unnatural. "Remember Me" is only slightly more than forgettable, but its good intentions and good performances can't make up for a central romance that feels more rushed than real thanks to the triumph of casting and celebrity over chemistry and charm.
James Rocchi's writings on film have appeared at Cinematical.com, Netflix.com, SFGate.com and in Mother Jones magazine. He lives in Los Angeles, where every ending is a twist ending.