In Theaters: Remember Me
Any review of the maudlin, meandering Robert Pattinson drama Remember Me will always get around to mentioning the Big Twist Ending, so let's just get it out of the way now: There's a Big Twist Ending that anyone paying attention to the film's internal clock and visual cues can see coming a mile away. I won't spoil it, because one of the film's few involving qualities lies in spotting these hints as director Allen Coulter and first-time screenwriter Will Fetters deliver them. Other than that, get ready for a marathon of angst, grief, romance and loving close-ups of gorgeous young people in the middle of it all.
Pattinson stars as Tyler Hawkins, a New York University student with issues. There's the matter of his estranged father (Pierce Brosnan), a power attorney who's been more than a little cool to Tyler since he found his brother's body -- a hanging suicide -- a few years earlier. Then there's his little sister Caroline (Ruby Jerins), on whom Tyler dotes while her private-schoolmates torment her for being "weird." Then there's the annoying cad and best friend Aiden (Tate Ellington), whose attempts to rouse Tyler from his quiet melancholy involve plenty of vice and other generally fratty idiocy.
It's all seriously too much for Tyler to deal with, and Pattinson sulks and thrashes his way through these burdens until he meets Ally (Emilie de Ravin). She's got her own shit, too, like an overprotective cop father (a snarling, haunted Chris Cooper) back in Queens who just happened to arrest Tyler after a violent street altercation. Dating Ally starts as a sort of malignant bet for revenge's sake, but as Tyler's connection to her deepens, so, too, does his shallow, nihilistic perspective on just about everything.
Credit Coulter for lifting the material above generic love-saves-the-day treacle, and credit Fetters (I guess) for installing a weirdly transfixing ordinariness to his otherwise rote, episodic plotting. When Pattinson and de Ravin's chemistry falters (which it often does), the creatives supply the Tyler/Ally courtship with the some of the most credible grit the film has. Most of this is achieved through the canny use of New York locations, from Tyler's craphole apartment to a packed, overheated LIRR train heading back to the city from Labor Day weekend. The authenticity rubs off on the young lovers, and their happiness -- like the ultimate happiness of all New Yorkers constantly dealing with the town's rigors and brutalities -- feels genuinely earned.
Not so much the Big Twist Ending, about which all I'm going to say is there's a reason the meticulous TV veteran Coulter overlooks establishing shots of the building where Tyler's father works. Pattinson's performance seems strained, almost disturbed more by this knowledge than any woe afflicting Tyler. It's as though in anticipating what will happen, Pattinson imbues his character with a dread incompatible with the troubles around him.
That said, it's a sincere dread; Tyler may be a whiny bitch you just want to drop-kick into oncoming traffic, but Pattinson owns that with fuck-all charisma making the character even less likable than the script's surly caricature. It gives Tyler something genuine to come back from, even if Pattinson struggles with the climb. De Ravin picks up the slack in their romantic entanglement, plugging Ally's perkier world-weariness into a formula larded with catharsis and sweeping self-importance. They're at their best when the needles are in the red, either torridly making out in a hallway or melting down over Tyler's ulterior dating motive; they're at their worst in the bottomless expository pits of Fetters's set-ups and dialogue. Brosnan and Cooper are fine as outliers in radical denial, their apprehensions smothering their children.
The whole thing plods along to you-know-what, which would probably provoke a pretty good ethics-in-storytelling debate if weren't so overtly manipulative, mawkish and dependent on a moment too emotionally obscure for Remember Me's target audience to process. You'll see what I mean when you view it. If you view it. Walk, don't run is all I'm saying.