Thursday, October 18, 2007

reVIEW (27)

For those unaware of it, the premise of The Forgotten is an interesting one: Julianne Moore plays a woman with the unlikely name of Telly Paretta, a grieving mother who lost her son in a plane crash some fourteen months ago. One day, she is suddenly told by everyone—including her increasingly estranged husband, played by E.R.’s Anthony Edwards—that she never had a son, that the memories she has of her little boy’s life and death, were all constructs of her mind. Even treasured photos of her son Sam are somehow altered, her boy erased everywhere else except from her memory.
For the first thirty minutes or so of the film, the mind games are enough to keep the audience engaged and curious, but when Telly makes an astounding leap in logic, the story bungles its way into X-Files territory, complete with shadowy operatives apparently working for the government, and never quite recovers from the fatal misstep.

Though it could be argued that Moore chose to do The Forgotten because of all the maternal angst and inner strength she gets to sink her considerable acting teeth into, it boggles the mind why actors of the caliber and talent of Gary Sinese and Alfre Woodard chose to appear in the film, given the glaring flaws in the script itself. It doesn’t help any that director Joseph Ruben is notorious for helming lackluster thrillers like the Julia Roberts-starrer Sleeping With The Enemy, or The Good Son with Macauley Culkin and Elijah Wood.
I can’t even say The Forgotten’s failure is because the material is now inherently hackneyed, given that the X-Files Moment has come and gone: Alex Proyas dealt with much of the same themes and subject matter in the astounding Dark City, in a much more fantastic, yet much more emotionally-satisfying way.
What’s more, the manner in which the film ends does nothing to resolve the primal quandary: the problem is still hanging over everyone’s stupidly smiling face once the credits roll. And the ultimate triumph of Maternal Love over the sinister machinations of Them rings so hollow, I can still hear the echoes nearly half a day after I’ve seen the film.

Having mentioned Maternal Love though, the film does seem to display a feminist streak, in that the two main female characters played by Moore and Woodard, are the ones more readily open to accept the fantastic, improbable explanation, as opposed to the male characters, who are either slow on the uptake, totally inept, or outright collaborators.
I think part of the problem is the fact that there is no apparent reason why Telly is immune to the process. Is it because she’s a woman? Surely other women underwent and succumbed to the forgetting. Is it because she’s a parent? But other parents forgot their children as well. Is it (as she underscores in a line of dialogue towards the film’s end) because she is a mother? But again, surely other mothers were made to forget too.
So Telly is apparently an exceptionally strong-willed mother. But what made her so? What events in her life contributed to these characteristics? What is Telly’s psychology? The script doesn’t give us anything to work with on that score.
So we are asked to identify and sympathize with Telly because she is a mother in pain trying to convince everyone else of her sanity, proof that grief is not a sign of weakness, or worse, madness. Fine. Given Moore’s acting chops, that’s the easy part of the deal. It’s all the other stuff that comes along with The Forgotten that’s difficult to swallow.

In the end, the motivation for Them seems almost dismissive, as if to say, We can give you the barest skeleton of a reason, but that’s okay; we’ll just give you another scene of Telly remembering Sam, thus proving her pure, unwavering love for him. Or worse, We don’t need to outline the motivation here since you’ve seen all the motivation for this sort of thing from every single X-Files episode in existence, from back when Mulder first met Scully.
And though I could commend the filmmakers for the naturalistic approach to the fantastic elements of the plot, I choose not to, since that decision didn’t help in raising the credibility of the material one iota: the film is as hard to swallow now as it would be if it had pink laser beams and vari-colored lights pinwheeling through the night sky. (Though seeing Telly on a flying bicycle with Sam might have been an amusing sight.)
The best I can say is, if you’re a Julianne Moore fan, then maybe you should see The Forgotten.
Stress on the “maybe.”

(The Forgotten OS courtesy of; DVD cover art courtesy of

(The above review was originally published under the title, “Best Forgotten.”)

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