Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
March 2007

More than a feeling

That awesome 1976 Boston song sure is underrated . . . hey look, it's another crappy Sandra Bullock movie!

Premonition
MGM Pictures
Director: Mennan Yapo
Screenplay: Bill Kelly
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Julian McMahon, Nia Long, Irene Ziegler, Amber Valleta, Peter Stormare, Shyann McClure and Courtney Taylor Burness
Rated PG-13 / 1 hour, 36 minutes
Opened March 16, 2007
(out of four)

This was the logical next step for Sandra Bullock. Everything in her career has been leading up to this. I'm serious. In Premonition, she plays a woman caught in some sort of time warp - going back and forth between the days just before her husband dies, and the days just after.

Let's think about this on the Bullock Scale. Just last year in The Lake House, she was caught in another time warp - a two-year differential between her love interest, played by Keanu Reeves. Here's where the plot thickens. Bullock shot to fame in 1994 - once again racing against time, once again with Reeves as her trusty companion, to save the passengers of a doomed city bus. Stay with me here.

Back to Premonition: Bullock's character, Linda, innocently answers the door one Thursday afternoon, only to be told that her husband has been killed in a car accident. Only Linda comes to realize that, while it is apparently Thursday, she doesn't remember anything after Sunday night. The three days in between have vanished. Bullock herself pulled a vanishing act as Kiefer Sutherland's would-be wife in the awful remake of The Vanishing, and wound up dead. Two years later, her life was erased in The Net, and in that same year, her would-be husband (played by Peter Gallagher) in While You Were Sleeping is stuck in a coma and his life seems to have been erased by a phantom case of amnesia . . . which of course is falsely manufactured because of Ms. Bullock's little white lies.

She also hilariously fell down some stairs in Crash, so I'm sure that fits in somewhere.

But time and again, the same things keep coming up in Bullock's filmography: Racing against time, disappearances, dead (or comatose) spouses. It almost seems like magic . . . which reminds me: She was also in Practical Magic with Nicole Kidman, whose dead husband was reincarnated in the body of a 10-year-old boy in 2004's Birth.

OK, that last one was a bit of a stretch.

Excuse me for rambling, but do you really think there's much to say about this movie? Of course not. Premonition does carry one more link to the rest of Bullock's career, and this is the most important one: It is a bad movie. She's had a peculiar run as a movie star. She has been one of America's sweethearts for more than a decade, and yet she hasn't done much more than a string of nice and easy formula pics that turn a modest box-office profit. Even Meg Ryan took riskier projects, and audiences got sick of her years ago.

As it sits right now, I'm not sure if we'll ever know how good of an actress she is; she's certainly not bad. She's likable and effortlessly charming. She's also never given a performance that forced you to sit up and take notice . . . but then again, the material she has been working with has rarely been anything special. Even when she appeared in the Oscar-winning Crash, she got the least-glamorous, least-important role of the entire star-studded cast. So we just can't tell.

In Premonition, her performance suggests that she should probably be in a better movie. She portrays, effectively enough, the anguish of a woman whose husband has just been killed, and the bewilderment of one whose dead husband re-appears the next day, happily sipping coffee and perfectly alive.

She can play that part. I can buy that. Problem is, she's stuck in such a paint-by-numbers script that she is never given the chance to even try to expand that role. Basically, her life goes back and forth between the three days before her husband dies, and the three days after. This happens for a reason, of course - so that she can figure out the reasons and ramifications of his death and, hopefully, prevent it. (Oh, and she also has to patch up her struggling marriage in the three days before her husband dies. Funny what one can accomplish on such a tight schedule.)

On the Monday before his death (which occurred on a Wednesday), she makes a calendar outlining the sequence of events and hides it underneath the kitchen tablecloth, so that she can find it four days later, which is when she'll next wake up.

Naturally, she doesn't understand certain things that occur on Saturday . . . because she hasn't experienced Friday yet. But eventually she starts to put together the pieces - and just to make sure we get the point, director Mennan Yapo shows us a shot of Linda's two daughters putting together a 100-piece puzzle with Grandma. That's called symbolism!

It's only natural that a movie like this is riddled with plot holes. But screenwriter Bill Kelly doesn't even make any attempts at logic. The way Linda mindlessly performs acts she knows have already happened - without any thought to changing them and potentially changing the outcome of hers and her husband's fate - only exposes how poorly thought out this whole story is. As we know from countless time-travel movies (hasn't Linda ever seen Back to the Future?), even the slightest change can alter the future. And another thing: Since the day only switches back and forth between past and future after she goes to sleep, why couldn't she just stay up all night and see what happens?

And the thing is, I wouldn't be asking so many questions if this were an effective thriller. Maybe I'm ignoring the larger issue, which is that Premonition is an excessively boring movie. Maybe all the logical holes don't matter as much as that - it's just dull. It's not entertaining, it's not suspenseful, and it doesn't even have the benefit of a cool twist. If the lead character were played by Andie MacDowell, and it turned out her husband was Bill Murray, the tables were completely turned and this movie was called Groundhog Day 2? Now that would have been interesting.

(Please, Hollywood - don't let that give you any ideas.)

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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