These Are Not the Douchebags You Seek
Admittedly, my own sense of loss has been triggered by a (regretfully) missed opportunity to continue poking fun at the Twilight phenomenon, for Pattinson has successfully, if only for a few hours, disconnected himself from the franchise. Hell, Sparklepants actually signed onto Remember Me before he'd even heard of Twilight, and, for that reason and his convincing performance, it is easy enough to distance the Edward Cullen character from the more compelling movie in question.
Remember Me is not a cheery affair by any means; yet, because of its realistic characters and their compelling stories, the movie never really dips into Nicholas Sparks territory either. Remember Me opens with 11-year-old Ally (Emilie de Ravin), and her mother (an uncredited Martha Plimpton) in a carefree moment while waiting for a subway train. In an instant, the scene turns violent and the young girl watches helplessly as her mother is mugged and murdered. Then, the timeline shifts forward ten years, and we meet Tyler (Pattinson), a rich boy that has broken free of his father's grip and now lives a life of relative squalor. Actually, he lives in a truly disgusting apartment with a slightly revolting roommate, Aidan (Tate Ellington), who does well at providing slight moments of humor to diffuse Tyler's morose attitude. And this isn't the typical Rebel Without a Cause faux-aura that disaffected young men tend to feign these days, for Tyler is haunted by his own impending 22nd birthday, which is the very date that his older brother committed suicide.
The dysfunctional remnants of Tyler's family are also unable to heal, and his father (Pierce Brosnan) continues to cope by throwing himself into Wall Street and ignoring the other surviving members of the family. So, Tyler's simmering rage bubbles over within occasional violent outbursts, and, when he jumps into a drunken bar brawl, he finds himself in the slammer overnight with a few additional bruises, courtesy of an unsympathetic Sgt. Neil Craig (Chris Cooper). So, when Tyler ends up dating Craig's daughter, Ally (now fully grown and, like Tyler, an NYU undergrad), it is a further source of tension. In fact, Ally's dad does hate Tyler, but this isn't really a story of forbidden love, despite the fact that Ally's father still sees her as an 11-year old and the only family he has left. Instead, this is a story of the healing that takes place through a strong romantic bond between members of two families torn apart by death.
Meanwhile, the most palpable sense of suffering in the movie comes from youngest sibling Caroline (Ruby Jenns), who despairs at her father's lack of affection and indifference to her feelings and accomplishments. She continues to reel from her ongoing loss, which is aided somewhat by Tyler, who attempts to fill in the fatherly gaps as much as humanly possible. All of this trauma is difficult to navigate, but, for the most part, director Allen Coulter and screenwriter Will Fetters do so successfully, and they do not treat any of the story's multiple tragedies in a gratuitous manner. At the same time, their plot is not a conventional one, so the script possesses a lack of structure, but the actors' performances are largely convincing. Pattinson is finding those all-important acting chops (even if he does overdo it a bit in a confrontational boardroom scene), and de Ravin exerts a gravitational pull that's impossible to ignore. Little Ruby Jenns, who will break the heart of anyone who remembers being ignored by a parent or taunted by cruel classmates, is definitely one to watch; and, surprisingly, even Pierce Brosnan redeems himself somewhat from his recent unironic prancing with a horse's ass. Where the movie does falter is when the filmmakers feel compelled to follow Screenwriting 101 principles and add some contrived drama -- that is, to break up the lovers in preparation for an inevitable reunion -- which is an unconvincing diversion that, unfortunately, only functions to take emotional impact away from the real-life events depicted on the screen.
Altogether, however, Remember Me features solid performances and a well-balanced treatment of its difficult subject matter. After all, since violence often intrudes so suddenly in our lives, perhaps Ally isn't terribly odd for taking her dessert first because, the way she sees it, she may not ever make it past the entrée. In a similar manner, the events depicted at the movie's ending are not, as many outraged critics would have it, spiked with controversy but merely the most practical way of dealing with collectively residual tragedy.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.