September 30, 2004

The Forgotten

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And here we thought the reign of science fiction thrillers was dead. Well it is. Exhibit A: The Forgotten, directed by Joseph Ruben. Expectations were high for this one. After all, its cast is full of solid, well respected actors, including Anthony Edwards, Alfre Woodard, Gary Sinise, and, of course, Julianne Moore in all her eternally woeful glory. The teaser trailers weren”t bad either, promising an intriguing excursion into the mysterious depths of lost memories and some eerie sort of cool worthy of The Sixth Sense. The term ‘tease’ is oh so appropriate. Instead, audience members wallowed in the void left by a plot that went AWOL. I wish I had stayed out of this swamp of broken promises. What is truly intriguing is how the script even got produced.

The Forgotten features Moore playing the role of Telly Paretta, a woman who cannot part with the memory of her dead son, Sam, even when the rest of the world seems bent on wiping him out. One day, however, the world wins and all traces of her son”s existence completely disappear. Photographs of him evaporate, neighbors don”t remember his name, the article on the plane crash that killed him is erased and even his father has forgotten that he was ever around. Moore is distraught (as usual) and, when her psychologist makes the harmless suggestion that she is crazy, she flees her home in search of answers, solace, a grip on reality perhaps. Eventually, she turns to the goodly Ash (Dominic West), a friend whose kid perished alongside hers, and it turns out that he has had his memory freakishly erased too. He doesn”t remember who Telly is, but knows a pretty woman when he sees one, which is why he lets her spend the night at his apartment before calling the cops on her for ripping up his walls.

The thrills start to kick in when the NYPD arrest is high-jacked by the National Security Agency. NSA? What would the NSA want with Julianne Moore? What follows is a tense cat and mouse chase, as agents not-so-stealthily pursue the duo who are anxiously searching for truth and meaning … and the kids! I too searched for meaning in the ambiguous clues left by Gerald Di Pego, who penned the troublesome script. I got nothing. Sure, it”s fascinating studying the dynamic between two characters who are betrayed by the world. It”s fascinating trying to look for signs in the sepia flashbacks of little Sam, which litter the film and it”s even more fascinating trying to guess the big secret to the conspiracy and how it”s going be uncovered. Nevertheless, one forgets all of that when it becomes clear that answers are never going to be delivered.

The film degenerates into a smoke and mirrors show with only few shocks. Telly and Ash determine correctly, on multiple occasions, that something big and bad is going on. They realize that they are probably being hunted because their kids did not die but were abducted. They run around, shack up in a token log cabin in the woods, and Ash punishes himself, peering at his partner, asking why she was the only one who held onto her memories while everyone else had them stripped away?

Strangely enough, it seems that the whole film hinges on this question. The bad guy (Linus Roache) who is responsible for the vanishing children and the lifting of memories admits as much. This freaky, lifeless sucker tells Moore that he”s not so much concerned about the people he beams up as he is about why she is the only human on Earth whom he can”t make forget about them. This is where we feel Julianne working her hardest to redeem the film. She plays characters in jeopardy like a pro, but in this case, she just doesn”t have much to go up against. Her nemesis is all talk and tries to hurt her, but of course we all know who wins in the struggle. Apparently you can”t stop a mother from obsessing over her child, even if you have scary, mystical powers and an unsettling grin.

As the film comes to a close you”re left with the profound sense that ten bucks and ninety-six minutes of your life have disappeared and you just don”t have slightest clue how it happened. The Forgotten had promise, but its surprising lack of substance renders it another failed Hollywood experiment in the paranormal. Hey, if I wanted to watch red-heads chase dead kids and uncover other-worldly subterfuge I”d get Dana Scully to do the trick.

2 1/2 Stars

Archived article by Laura Simpson
Red Letter DAZE Contributor