I'll admit that when I saw "Remember Me" starred Robert Pattinson ("The Twilight Saga") in a story about "a girl who understands his pain," I pictured a film geared toward the 'tweens and teens that would sigh, Oh Edward every time Pattinson did his brooding thing.
Not that I have anything against brooding, mind you. But it's as if he studied James Dean and bad-boy Elvis films the way that football players will watch game video to improve their performance. For the most part it's just fine, but then there's a scene where he's supposed to close the distance between his character, Tyler, and his love interest, Ally (Emilie de Ravin, "Lost'), and it's so comical that the brooding thing would never, in real life, have turned into the breeding thing.
For the most part, though, Pattinson is convincing enough as a young man who drinks too much, hates his father for his preoccupation with work, and sips existential angst at trendy bookstores and coffee shops near the college where he audits classes. Now that's a rebel without a cause--studying for the sake of knowledge, rather than a degree. But he has a quick fuse--all the brooders do--and when he and his roommate Aidan (Tate Ellington) witness two guys whomping another two in an alley, he rushes in and starts punching the instigators. And when the cops come and witnesses tell the cops that Tyler and Aidan weren't a part of it and they're told to leave, that's not good enough for Tyler. He has to push Sgt. Neil Craig (Chris Cooper), telling him the other two victims shouldn't be taken away in cuffs either. The result? He gets a good old-fashioned cop beating.
At this point in the film we're a little confused, because we saw Sgt. Craig in the opening sequence, in which his 11-year-old daughter and wife were mugged on a Brooklyn subway platform and the wife senselessly shot and killed. The girl saw it all, and Craig had to identify the body. Then we fast forward 10 years to the incident with Tyler and Aidan, but we're clueless why Tyler is as brooding and bad-ass as he is, and wondering what his backstory is. Turns out that he and Ally have a family tragedy in common, but radically different ones. And the real plot is set in motion when Aidan recognizes the cop dropping his daughter off at the college and suggests that Tyler get back at him by wooing, screwing, and dumping his daughter. Surprisingly--and I say that because it goes against everything else that we know and learn about Tyler--he goes along with it. Though, of course, Pattinson broods the whole time in this only okay film.
Anyone who's spent a lot of time in theaters knows this plot because we've seen it many times before. You know he's going to fall for her and you know he's going to get found out and you know that somewhere along the line she'll forgive him. And while the acting and direction in "Remember Me" is really very good, the familiar plot conventions take the film down a notch. The overprotective cop who's worried about his daughter? Seen it. The rich businessman too busy to spend time with his kid? Seen it--even (or especially) at Christmas time in films like "Elf." But the one thing we usually don't see (and thank goodness) is a trick ending. I have low tolerance for O. Henry endings because they're lazy cop-outs at best and affronts against the reader-viewer at worst. So my rule is to never give a film more than a 6 out of 10 if it jerks my chain at the end. Maybe you're more tolerant than I am of such things, and if so, you'll probably like the way this brooding drama plays out.
De Ravin as Ally is full of life and zest, a nice counter-balance to Tyler's "life sucks and so does almost everyone in it" attitude. Same with Ruby Jerins as Caroline, Tyler's young sister--an artistic genius who's bullied by mean girls at school. She gives her brother a chance to show his good side. And Cooper manages to evoke sympathy for his cop character, despite the bad cop opening. But Tyler's parents? They really don't have enough scenes that give their characters a chance to break out of the stereotypes, and so Pierce Brosnan and Lena Olin never do get much traction.
So there are stereotypes, there are illogical moments, and there's a trick ending I won't get into for obvious reasons. But there's also some fine acting, and veteran TV director Allen Coulter ("The Sopranos," "Sex and the City," "Rome," "New York Undercover") really has a nice feel for the tone, which keeps "Remember Me" from falling into the abyss of melodrama. And with so much brooding going on, that's not an easy thing to do.
Parents of Robert Pattinson fans should know that this film is rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, language, and smoking. And Pattinson is involved in each of those, with he and de Ravin rolling around nude in the sack (though you don't see anything but general skin).
"Remember Me" is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and as befits a brooding, somewhat maudlin film, the palette is as dark and dreary as a rainy day in New York City. Coulter takes advantage of night scenes, dark corners, and shadows to reinforce the tone rather than running from it, and that gives "Remember Me" an earnest quality. Black levels are ramped up a bit, probably for the same reason, and the level of detail is strong throughout. In short, the AVC/MPEG-4 transfer appears to be a good one.
The featured audio is an English DTS-HD MA 5.1, the new industry standard, and it's a fairly dynamic track. Rear speakers throw out just enough ambient sound to fill the room. Most of the film is dialogue, though, and so the center speaker does get the most exercise. "Remember Me" has a nice full timbre and good sound reproduction at both ends. An additional audio option is in Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, with subtitles in English SDH and Spanish.
Two commentary tracks are provided--one by director Coulter and one with the cast--and while I didn't listen to either in its entirety, what I heard seemed average to above-average. It's a nice blend of anecdotal, location, production notes, and behind-the-scenes decisions and antics. The only other bonus feature is a 15-minute making-of feature that's pretty standard, though HD.
There's also a "while supplies last" poster that's redeemable via special website.
"Remember Me" got a 28 percent rotten rating at Rotten Tomatoes, but that bunch likes to throw tomatoes so much they ought to have their first convention at Buñol during the Tomatina festival. If you take away the trick ending, the performances and direction more than compensate for the familiar plot points and stock characters. And in fairness, once you get past the "trick" part, the ending does resonate.