** (out of 5)
September 24, 2004
Julianne Moore as TELLY PARETTA
Dominic West as ASH CORRELL
Anthony Edwards as JIM PARETTA
Gary Sinise as DR. JACK MUNCE
Alfre Woodard as DET. ANNE POPE
Christopher Kovaleski as SAM
Studio: Revolution Studios
Directed by: Joseph Ruben
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
An independent filmmaker once approached me for help with a script. He already had the premise of the movie set up, and he knew how it was going to end. But he needed help with the middle. “I always have a problem with the second act,” he said.
Well, of course he had trouble with the second act. That’s where most scripts actually break down. Premise is easy. And finding a great ending isn’t too hard. It’s all that character development and plot that goes on in the second act that gives so many writers problems. And you’ll notice that most crummy films break down about half-way through, even if they’ve got a great idea.
For a film like “The Forgotten,” the breakdown started in the middle and went all the way through to the end. And the problem with a self destructing in the end is that you’re left with a bad taste in your mouth. Some films with weak second acts can sometimes even redeem themselves with a great ending.
“The Forgotten” has a great premise – Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore) is mourning the loss of her nine-year-old son after he was lost in a plane accident. However, as she clings to his memory, she suddenly finds herself in a world where his memory is being erased. Her husband (Anthony Edwards) tells her they never had a son, and she can no longer find his personal items in the house.
Telly, refusing to believe that she is simply delusional, begins a crusade to remember her son. Along the way, she hooks up with Ash (Dominic West), who also lost his daughter in the plan accident. She brings his memory back, and suddenly, they find themselves on the run and embroiled in a mystery that they never imagined.
There was something about the presentation of the story that just failed to connect with me. It wasn’t the acting, because this was actually the best thing in the movie. Julianne Moore turns out a strong performance and is supported by a solid cast, including Alfre Woodard and Gary Sinise. There was just something about the story that didn’t grab me. It didn’t seem to gel right. Maybe it was because I already knew most of the plot from seeing the trailers, and many of the surprises didn’t work any more.
In some ways, this felt like a mid-list “X-Files” episode, but kept trying to be a fugitive movie. There are plenty of fantastic elements to the story, and they are presented in traditional “X-Files” style. Unfortunately, the movie shows its hand too early by busting out the NSA too quickly. (And the NSA is pretty incompetent in this film. With all the technology at their disposal, they can’t even find the fugitives in an empty field.)
And then there’s the ending. I’m not going to give anything away, but the script completely fell apart at the end – and I was ready to throw up in frustration at the final denouement.
This isn’t the film to see if you’ve got a weak stomach – not because of anything violent but because of the overuse of a shaky handheld camera. Utilized throughout the film to convey everything from mild discomfort to terror, the cinematographer rarely kept the image steady. It’s one thing to use a technique to enhance emotion, but it’s another to overdo it – and it is really, really overdone in “The Forgotten.”
This wasn’t easy film to assemble, I’m sure. The filmmakers tried to keep a balance between creepy weirdness and unbelievability. But the final premise was just a little too silly to really believe. I can empathize with this film because I think it actually painted itself into a corner, and they took the cliche out.
And when the explanation is finally given at the end, it doesn’t quite jive with some of the things that happened in the movie – like why did Telly’s existence start to fade away or whatever did happen to Telly’s coffee in the first act.
Thinking back to my college days, I remember a “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode with a similar plot and much better execution. And I guess that says something about a movie – when your premise was out-done by a syndicated sci-fi TV show, you might have some problems.