There is no way to adequately discuss Allen Coulter’s egregious Remember Me without indulging in what are known as spoilers. Indeed, a great many critics have not even bothered noting that they are indulging in them—possibly out of contempt for this movie. However, assuming you don’t already know the film’s out-of-left-field last-minute embellishment and you plan on seeing the rancid thing and wish to remain in ignorance of its big twist, then read no further. You stand warned. The fact that the action is seemingly arbitrarily set in 2001 should serve as a clue to where this is going.
If you’ve managed to miss the advertisements for Remember Me, this is the movie that is supposed to convince us that there is a real actor beating within the bosom of the apparently swoonerific Twilight star Robert Pattinson. To this end, he neither sparkles in the sunlight, nor does he walk toward the camera in slow motion. He is, however, even more gloomy than his tween-enthralling vampirific character, having seemingly co-opted his Twilight love interest’s mopiness in the transition to serious drama. Where in Twilight: New Moon she wrote endless self-absorbed, self-pitying e-mails (emo-mails?) to a nonresponsive correspondent, here Pattinson’s Tyler Hawkins pens long letters to his dead brother in a notebook. (Take that, Kristen Stewart!)
Pattinson has also been afforded a double dose of youthful angst of the sort once popularized by James Dean and Marlon Brando—to the degree that I kept expecting him to scream, “You’re tearing me apart,” or claim that he “coulda been a contender,” which, unfortunately, he never does. He has neglectful-father issues and dead-brother (via suicide) issues. These he conveys to us by resenting authority, smoking cigarettes like a rank amateur (nowhere but in the movies do smokers light a cigarette, take two drags and put the damned thing out), drinking beer, living in a rundown (but very art-directed) New York City apartment, wearing shabby clothes and a perpetual three-day beard, and looking alternately sullen and soulful (the difference is minimal). This is meant to pass for acting and characterization.
Tyler has a roommate, Aidan (Tate Ellington), who was apparently obtained from the Bureau of Annoying Roommates. He starts out by saying all the things to Tyler that the audience is thinking (mainly telling him he is a self-involved jerk), propels the plot with a preposterously stupid idea, and then hangs around because there’s no convenient way of getting him out of the movie. After 30 minutes of Aidan, you’re ready for him to be painlessly destroyed. By the 45-minute mark, you’re ready to negotiate on the painless part. But without Aidan there to goad Tyler into hitting on Ally Craig (Emilie de Ravin, TV’s Lost) in the dumbest revenge scheme ever concocted, there’s no plot. You see, Aidan has discovered that Ally is the daughter of Sgt. Neil Craig (Chris Cooper), the cop who roughed-up Tyler and tossed the pair of them in the pokey. Wouldn’t it be a hoot if Tyler seduced Ally to get back at her old man?
Thanks to a shared taste in high-school-level profundity (“What are you undecided about?” Response: “Everything”), Ally proves a fairly easy mark, but then she, too, is damaged, having seen (in the movie’s opening scene) her mother shot by muggers on a subway platform back in 1991. It follows as the night the day that Tyler actually falls in love with her, thereby neatly setting up the required next-to-last reel of true love not running smoothly, since the truth of how the relationship started is bound to come out.
There are all manner of plot embellishments—mostly involving strained relationships with fathers. However, Tyler has problems not just with his filthy rich and nonspecifically powerful father’s (Pierce Brosnan) coolly indifferent attitude toward him, but also with his precocious, slightly misfit little sister (Ruby Jerins, Shutter Island). Ally’s father is too controlling. People get slapped, a fire extinguisher gets thrown, threats are exchanged, relationships are damaged—until finally everybody turns out to be better than you think they are and things are on an even course. Ah, but then comes the twist.
Tyler goes to meet his father (who is delayed, as typical) at his very lofty (hint) skyscraper office, where he learns (via a screensaver slide show) how very devoted dad really is. Meanwhile, little sister’s teacher writes the date on the blackboard and hits us with one of those moments (usually played for laughs as in Time Bandits (1981)) where someone on shipboard moves out of the way so we can see a life-preserver labeled “S.S. Titanic” hanging behind them. Yes, it’s September 11, 2001, and Tyler is on the 90-somethingth floor of a skyscraper. Oh, which one can it be? Yes. The camera moves away from the building and the screen goes black. Funny thing is, I might have been impressed with the tasteless chutzpah on display here had it stopped there. But no, we’re in for minutes of aftermath footage, mostly concentrating on the emotions of Tyler’s surviving friends and family, making it appear that the tragedy is really all about him—and Aidan getting “Tyler” tattooed on his arm. Ye gods. Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, language and smoking.