Domestic Troubles Arrive In a Puzzle of Fate
By Cole Smithey
Ageless beauty Sandra Bullock gives her typical automated performance in a superficial cross between the recent "Deja Vu" and Bullock’s own excruciating movie "The Lake House." Time folds back and forth in various permutations as suburban housewife Linda Hanson (Bullock) awakens to discover that her husband Jim (Julian McMahon) has been killed in a car accident, or to discover that he’s still alive. Clues about Jim’s fate mount alongside bizarre events, such as Linda’s eldest daughter becoming horribly scarred after running through a plate glass window, or watching Jim’s coffin break open when it’s dropped on the ground moments before his funeral. The non-linear plot becomes an annoyingly repetitive device that stalls before the final act stitches the narrative puzzle together. Admittedly, there’s a guilty pleasure in watching any Sandra Bullock movie because of the commercially generic choices she makes at every level of production and performance. She is very good at what she does.
Composer Klaus Badelt ("Pirates of the Caribbean") teases with an evocative score that, like everything else in the movie, falls short of its perceived aim. Early in their relationship, Jim gives Linda a substantial three-bedroom house as a perfect place for them to raise a family. As with "The Lake House," the dwelling functions as an emblem of compatibility whose foundation is tested under supernatural conditions.
Fast-forward to nearly a decade later. The couple has two little girls, and the family are living the life that all SUV manufacturers want Americans to abide by. Tragedy strikes after Linda listens to a telephone message from Jim where he professes his love for their daughters before dropping the call, ostensibly to talk to a woman whose voice we hear in the background. His voice sounds depressed, as if he may be considering suicide. A police trooper visits to inform Linda of her husband’s death after a big rig jackknife. Where many women might faint at such news, Bullock’s Linda remains stoic until she wakes up shocked to find Jim drinking coffee in the kitchen. The surreal episode transforms Linda into an investigator searching every cranny for clues that might enable her to preserve her husband’s life. Prescription pills left in a sink drain, an unfamiliar woman at Jim’s funeral, and a torn phone book point Linda toward a secret that will divulge her own involvement in the disaster.
In a vacuum-sealed role, Julian McMahon ("Fantastic Four") carries his death-warmed-over persona too far. There isn’t a whiff of chemistry between McMahon and Bullock. When the couple argue about the wilting state of their marriage, a contagious apathy flies off the screen. There’s such a streak of artificial misery that runs through the movie you can’t help but laugh when Linda finds her way into a church for comfort. Screenwriter Bill Kelly’s theme-spewing priest coaches Linda with platitudes about her wretched existence. The scene brings the movie to a screeching halt in the name of backpedaled exposition.
The most irrelevant plot point involves the dreadful accident that Linda’s daughter suffers. With garishly stitched cuts all over her face, the secondary character co-opts the story as a grotesque victim of her mother’s vacillating sanity. From a visual standpoint the girl becomes a monstrous embodiment of an ailing marriage. But the accident implicates our protagonist Linda as a negligent mother who may also be a subconscious murderer.
There’s no pretending that "The Premonition" is anything more than a cheap knock-off of every other M. Night Shyamalan-influenced Hollywood thriller. It doesn’t matter if the husband dies or if the daughter’s face is scarred because the melodrama here is so rotten that the riddle is moot. Nonetheless, Sandra Bullock is the girlish tomboy that grew up to forge a cottage industry of mediocre cinema. Her movies somehow improve when they’re screened on airplanes. So what if you come out numb. That's the point.
Rated PG-13. 97 mins. (C-) (Two Stars)
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