A Remember-ance of Things Past
By Roxana Hadadi
Ladies, it’s true: Robert Pattinson’s hair in his new, non-“Twilight” film, “Remember Me,” is just as rumpled and bedhead-like as it is when he’s a vampire. But his performance in “Remember Me” is far more powerful than anything he’s done so far as the fanged one, a more layered performance that has moments of over-the-top ridiculousness but overall delivers.
That may be because the film swipes a lot of bits from other movies – a great drinking game could be made of throwing one back whenever a plot aspect from another flick, like “Reality Bites,” “Garden State,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Good Will Hunting” or “American Beauty,” pops onscreen, but you won’t have to sip on anything illicit to make it through “Remember Me.” Instead, the film is a surprising combination of young-adult nihilism and familial loyalty, with a hinted-at-but-still-unprecedented turn at the end that will probably leave you in tears, unless you’re totally heartless. Sure, the whole thing reeks of “carpe diem,” but it’s a testament to the film’s cast that it doesn’t sink under its melodramatic theme.
Nevertheless, its PG-13 rating is pretty accurate. For parents of Pattinson (“New Moon”) fans, be warned: The actor’s portrayal of main character Tyler Hawkins is grittier and more pained than he ever gets as Edward Cullen, even though that guy is undead. Tortured by his brother’s suicide on his 22nd birthday, Tyler has a superb apathy toward ambition, instead choosing to audit classes at New York University while his roommate chases girls and excessively drinks. And Tyler’s love interest, Ally Craig (Emilie de Ravin, “Lost”), comes from a similarly heartbreaking background, having witnessed her mother’s death at the hand of teenage muggers on the NYC subway when she was 11.
Those two events – Tyler’s brother’s suicide and Ally’s mother’s murder – have shaped them into somewhat nihilistic 21-year-olds: Tyler is viciously close to his 11-year-old sister, Catherine (whose art-prodigy status invites the other girls at her elite private school to relentlessly mock her), but he doesn’t really have any friends besides his roommate Aiden (Tate Ellington, “Red Hook”) and can’t stand his father Charles (Pierce Brosnan, “The Ghost Writer”), a high-powered lawyer-type who lacks a close relationship with his remaining two children. Similarly drifting is Ally, whose father Neil is a disgruntled cop; though the two are close, he’s overbearing, prone to drinking too much and fails to see Ally as an adult, instead continuing to hold his daughter too close in fear of losing her. The kids aren’t alright, indeed.
But through a series of events that could only happen in the movies, Tyler and Ally cross paths: First, she says something smart in his global politics class, causing him to specifically notice her. Then, after Tyler becomes involved in a violent fight outside of a bar for no reason at all and gets arrested by Neil for mouthing off instead of just going home, Aiden sees Neil dropping Ally off at school and thinks they should use the connection. In a move straight from “10 Things I Hate About You” or “She’s All That,” he convinces Tyler to hit on Ally in order to somehow get back at Neil, but (of course) the two develop real feelings for each other instead.
He wins her a stuffed panda at a carnival game, cooks her dessert and introduces her to his family, and soon, the two have tumbled into bed together, easing each other’s misery. And after Neil hits Ally for coming home late one morning, she flees to Tyler’s apartment, leading the two to spend an idyllic summer together.
Yet all good things must come to an end, and the film delivers the boy-loses-girl-maybe-gets-her-back storyline in a pretty standard way. What ends up happening after that, however, is what makes the film truly gripping – and even more depressing. And that couldn’t be done without strong performances from Pattinson, who shows he’s more than just eye candy for tweens; de Ravin, who displays real mettle when her character faces off against her father; and Brosnan, whose cold detachment is both understandable and infuriating. Plus, whenever Pattinson teeters dangerously close to (badly) mimicking James Dean’s famous “You’re tearing me apart!” line from “Rebel Without a Cause,” de Ravin and Brosnan are there to reel him back in.
Don’t let those panting-for-Pattinson youngsters come near “Remember Me,” though. The suicide and murder are heavy plot elements, and while you see just the latter, not both, it’s still somewhat traumatizing. Add in a few sex scenes (no nudity, however) and that tear-inducing ending, and younger teens may not be able to handle it.
But for older fans wanting to see Pattinson expand his acting range, “Remember Me” isn’t too offensive. Plus, copious shirtlessness! Who can disagree with that?
Roxana Hadadi last reviewed Alice in Wonderland.