Friday, June 25, 2010
Remember Me: Where Romance and 9/11 Awkwardly Merge
When I departed for the local Blockbuster yesterday afternoon, I already knew I was going to pick up "Remember Me", which was just released to DVD and stars the teen-throb of the moment Robert Pattinson. Ha, Ha, Ha...no...I know what your thinking and you are wrong. I am not, nor will I ever be, an R-Pat fan, but I was curious as to why the film did so poorly at the box-office considering the tremendous draw of Robbie P's busted, yet strangely attractive, pale Brit face.
The cover art of the DVD told me several things:
1. This is a cheesy romance, heavily reliant upon the good looks of its male lead.
2. It doesn't work out well in the end.
3. Its has an overt 9/11 theme, but then again, I can sniff out a 9/11 film a mile away. How did I know? NYC cityscape on the back fold and the film set in 2001. Why would any film be set in 2001 in NYC and not have something to say about the falling of the Twin Towers?
But to merge a Twenty-something college romance coming of age family drama with a post 9/11 event conflict, is wonky to begin with. It would require an absolutely superb creative team to pull off a film like that properly. I already knew:
4. Anything with Rob Pats in it could not possibly have met the challenge.
But these were only first impressions, I hadn't even watched it yet.
Robert Pattinsons performance was awkward and self conscious, like a kid who used to be fat and is now the James Dean fantasy of every woman he meets. Unsure of how to wield this new found power over the sexes, Pattinson's wincingly modest hold over acting destroys all efforts at maintaining the imaginary "4th wall", or suspension of disbelief. But the narrative blunders forward despite the best efforts of the young actors to make it sickeningly melodramatic. The viewer is introduced to two dysfunctional families, both rendered this way because of tragic losses, a murdered mother and a brother lost to suicide. The "meet cute" between boy and girl is, of course, a wussy revenge/bet plot which ends up becoming a true love with a secret scenario. Either way, the two have bonded over a misunderstood world view shaped by their experiences of grief.
By the end of the film the seemingly trivial conflicts have been righted and everything appears to be on the up and up for both families and for the young lovers. "I love you", he says to her before heading out to a meeting with his father at his downtown office. A beautiful blue sky September morning in downtown New York. He takes the elevator up to the 89th Floor...and then we see the date. September 11, 2001. He waits for his father to arrive, taking in the glorious view of the city below. Cut to the streets: people running, people gathering around television screens, people emerging on the roof tops eyes transfixed on some imaginary point on the horizon, mouths agape. We know already how this story has ended....and how it began. The film ends with a montage of images symbolic of the passage of time and the continuation of a city, a family, of life after a tragedy.
The two genres, romance and apocalyptic drama, come together in Remember Me in an attempt to draw attention to one of several moralistic themes. Whether you choose to hear "take nothing for granted" louder than "live everyday as your last" is entirely up to you. What I found unique about this film is the manner in which the terrorist attack is surprisingly unveiled. At first this plot device doesn't seem to fit at all. Upon further reflection, I realized that the element of shock was the dominant feeling amongst Americans on 9/11 and this film was literally attempting to recreate the way 9/11 happened for all of us. Did we as citizens of the United States, as inhabitants of the great cities of New York and Washington, DC ever imagine a world where airplanes could crash into our most prideful ideologies and topple them like dandelions to the wind?
From a strictly film as art point of view, Remember Me is tragic cinema - it could have been magnificent, but instead it weasels by on its intentions.