Review: ‘Remember Me’

Fresh from vamping it up in the absurdly popular Twilight movies, the young British actor’s choice for his first big non-bloodsucking leading role was always going to attract wild attention.  And then early PR for Remember Me, which opens in the UK today, suggested a new, more mature direction for the heartthrob. Could the overwhelming fame of the SMA (Sexiest Man Alive, of course) potentially overshadow the merits of what would otherwise have been an artful, overlooked indie film?

As it transpires, there’s not much danger of that. Remember Me is a middle-of-the-road post-teenage melodrama which plays well to Pattinson’s young female target audience, and is being aggressively marketed as such. Commiserations must go to Pattinson’s co-star and Lost alumni Emilie de Ravin, who is practically hidden in most of the posters. Even if she were wearing a high-visibility jacket and clown makeup, it would be hard to steal focus.  This is, indisputably, an R-Patz vehicle.

Pattinson plays Tyler, a precocious 21-year-old college student with a distant father, a deceased brother and a reckless habit of general rebelliousness. Tyler is counterpointed by romantic interest Ally, who has also experienced tragedy in her family. Ally’s father happens to be a New York City cop that Tyler got into a scuffle with, and Tyler’s best buddy bets him to date her, initiating the relationship-based-on-a-bet story arc that comes to a head right on cue at the end of act two with inevitable dialogue like “but then I got to know you…” For the most part, it’s rigidly, obstinately formulaic. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, nothing smarter than that.

Tyler is an amalgamation of young movie angst, from James Dean to The Breakfast Club and everything in between. Whereas in the Twilight ‘saga’, Pattinson is emo-moody, here he is angry-moody: angry with his rich, detached father (in an unusual turn for Pierce Brosnan); with his little sister’s bullies, with the cops, with, it appears, the whole world. His hissy fits aren’t expanded with any great depth beyond the usual stock introspection (Tyler enjoys quoting Ghandi). Nor do they lead to any learning curve or consequence for the character, who has his wealthy father bail him out of prison on numerous occasions.

But say what you like about the ‘saga’ – and this website certainly has – the boy can act. While the more ludicrous acts of rebellion do veer towards the histrionic, Pattinson shows promise of being a decent leading man who can construct a well-rounded performance, even if his preposterous handsomeness is distracting to all audiences, male or female.

Emilie de Ravin as Ally has less to offer, mainly because she has little to work from. Her character is the usual feisty, kooky independent woman beloved of indie scriptwriters. One of her quirks is that she eats the pudding before the rest of her meal because “I don’t see the point in waiting.” The script is littered with infuriating dialogue like this, going for shallow pithy contemplation in favour of any great depth. “I’m undecided,” Tyler says in one scene. “About what?” asks Ally. “…Everything.” The R-Patz teenage fanbase will squeal with delight at that one.

And so we have another run-of-the-mill romantic drama, or at least we would were it not for the last curious fifteen minutes of the film. At this point I should act responsibly as a reviewer in warning you that there are spoilers forthcoming. Being a visitor to this particular website, however should mean you are an intelligent, discerning moviegoer who chooses carefully how you spend your money on the films you see, and so I really shouldn’t be spoiling anything.

Just as the film comes to its natural conclusion, the boy has got the girl back, somewhat reconciled with his father and feels a bit less angry with the world, he goes to visit his father’s office on the fifteenth floor of what is revealed to be the World Trade Centre, on September 11th, 2001. And that’s it. End of film. No more Tyler. Apart from the occasional hint, there is nothing to prepare you for such an abrupt and surprising ending. The screening I attended elicited audible snorts of perplexed laughter when the date is finally disclosed; I overheard a ‘how absurd’ from an audience member. And it is.

It’s not that 9/11 shouldn’t dramatised – there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. But to work a real-life tragedy so late into an otherwise average film seems exploitative; not just to the tragedy itself, which is used merely as a handy plot device, but to the audience who have supposedly invested in the story and characters only to have the rug swept away from under our feet for a messy attempt at Grecian tragedy finish. The closing minutes are admittedly moving, but only because it evokes the powerful memories of the event itself. Capitalising on a tragedy is not a classy way to make films.

But undoubtedly I’m preaching to the choir here. This is a Robert Pattinson showcase, and in that respect it fits the bill just fine. Remember Me will be remembered only as another step on Pattinson’s relentless climb to omnipresent fame. His fanbase is ardent, adoring, young, naive, vast in numbers, uncaring about filmmaking of any great distinction and ever-yearning to see his ‘troubled youth’ schtick. An actual comment from the trailer on YouTube reads: “Just saw this movie yesterday and WOW its really the best Robert Pattinson’s movie eveeeeeeeer !!!! after watching it i want to watch it like 1000 times more !!!” With an audience like that, one negative review will hardly make an impact. R-Patz is in town, and he’s here to stay, like it or not.

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