Bullock's latest a solid effort
By Lady Liberty
** out of ****
I like Sandra Bullock well enough, and I certainly enjoy a good thriller. From its trailers, Premonition looked like might might have a few thrills as well as the type of twisted plot I sometimes enjoy (provided it's written well, that is). Besides, there wasn't anything else opening this weekend that I had any interest in seeing. That's not exactly an overwhelming rationale for seeing a given movie, but it was just enough to convince me to buy my ticket.
In Premonition, we meet suburban housewife, Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock). Just like many women with the same job description, her days are filled by caring for her two daughters, Megan and Bridgette (Shyann McClure and Courtney Taylor Burness), and a nice home. Her husband, Jim (Julian McMahon) works hard to support his family. Unfortunately, the pair have also settled into a marriage that's become as routine and unsatisfying as too many of their daily tasks.
Linda in particular is conscious of the distance between her and her husband. But all of that disappears in one devastating moment when a local sheriff (Marc Macaulay) knocks on her door to tell her that Jim is dead. In many ways, the slow loss of passion in her marriage only makes Linda's grief all the greater. With help from her mother Joanne (Kate Nelligan), Linda pulls herself together just enough to tell her daughters that Daddy isn't coming home. After that wrenching chore, Linda tries to find some solace in the memories of the once joyful union between Jim and herself.
Grief and exhaustion eventually overtake Linda's sensibilities and she falls asleep. Her escape is only too brief; when she wakes up, she instantly recalls that her husband is dead and she begins her suffering all over again. Because she knows that there are decisions that must be made and things that need to be done whether she's ready for them or not, she looks first for her mother. Joanne, however, is not to be found. Linda goes from room to room until she's shocked to the core by discovering not her mother but her very much alive husband!
As real as her memories are, Linda comes to the perfectly natural conclusion that she's had a particularly vivid dream. While she once again immerses herself in her daily routine, strange moments of deja vu begin to jar her emotions and jog her memories of the nightmare she's now sure she's had. Before she can shake off her feelings of confusion and doom, she wakes to another day only to find that Jim really has been killed and that she once again must pick up the pieces and find a way to go on.
It's awful enough, of course, that Linda starts to think she must be going crazy simply because she's been possessed by dreams that are so real they vie with reality in her memories. But when her best friend, Annie (Nia Long), her mother, and a co-worker of her husband's (Claire, played by Amber Valletta) begin to remind her of things she's said or done that she can't recall, she's almost certain that she's insane. Linda seeks help from a variety of sources including a priest (Jude Ciccolella) and a psychiatrist (Peter Stormare), but in the end, she begins to believe that it's up to her to decide whether life or death will win out.
Sandra Bullock is a capable actress. Though I usually prefer her in comedies where her talents are considerable, she's done just fine in some more dramatic roles (including the Oscar-winning Crash and the underrated The Lake House). Her growing bewilderment in this movie is subtly and skillfully rendered; her wild eyes give her otherwise calm visage the razor's edge look of a woman clinging to sanity despite all of the clues that might lead her to slip over the edge.
Julian McMahon (best known for his role on the television series Nip/Tuck) has just enough chemistry with his co-star that we can believe the pair truly did love each other once. His present wary distance from his wife is entirely believable. Meanwhile, the supporting cast is all fine in relatively small roles (though I'd submit that Peter Stormare is miscast — his hulking screen presence and slightly scruffy appearance don't say "reputable psychiatrist" to me at all).
Premonition is only the second major release effort for both director Mennan Yapo and writer Bill Kelly. Yapo gives an especially good effort. Aside from the entirely appropriate performances of the cast, there are some wonderful camera angles and pans and a few truly inspired edits. At least one critic has sniped at Kelly's script for failing to measure up to what may have been the definitive film for a growing genre of time-jumping storytelling. In fairness to Kelly, however, I've yet to see any film of this type measure up to the brilliant Memento and I thought his script was perfectly fine.
There's nothing in Premonition that stands out in such a way that audiences will simply have to see this film. But there are redeeming qualities, too, including decent performances for characters you'll care at least something about, and a script with enough twists and turns that you'll enjoy at least a few surprises. It could very well be on any other weekend you'd choose to see some other major release. But if you decide to spend your money on a ticket for Premonition this week, you won't have wasted the money.
FAMILY SUITABILITY: Premonition is rated PG-13 for "some violent content, disturbing images, thematic material, and brief language." There are some uncomfortable moments in Premonition that range from a troubled marriage to an accident scene to...well, I won't spoil it for you, but it's fair to say that these and other moments of "thematic material" aren't suitable for young children. The initial confusion inherent in a script like this one also requires a more mature audience to appreciate or even to follow. I'd suggest that Premonition is probably fine for those of about age 14 and up, though I suspect that teen boys of any age are going to be less thrilled with the film than will their female contemporaries. I actually think this movie might best be seen by couples who can't possibly be hurt by a reminder of how an overt appreciation for each other is necessary to keep even the most loving of relationships from withering.
Lady Liberty, a senior writer for ESR, is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at firstname.lastname@example.org.