Sometimes a movie come along that hit you right in the heart, serving up the perfect blend of great acting, directing, and screenwriting. Other times, movies like Remember Me come along and punch you in the face, simultaneously wasting your time and insulting your intelligence. The new Robert Pattinson project (because really, there’s no other reason that people are going to this movie) disappoints in so many ways. Saddled with weak acting and a clichéd screenplay, Remember Me trudges along, wallowing in its own despair.
The story begins in Queens, N.Y., with a shocking display of violence against a woman (Martha Plimpton, the movie’s most convincing actor) as witnessed by her young daughter, Alyssa. The movie jumps forward 10 years to Manhattan, where Tyler Hawkins (Pattinson) is found chain smoking and brooding, a depressingly recurring scene (seriously, the cigarette budget must have been astronomical). After mouthing off to a cop (how rogue of him!), Tyler finds himself in both a physical and emotional jail. An NYU student, he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. Instead of seeing a guidance counselor, he continues to smoke and sulk until he begins to date a now 21-year-old Alyssa.
Tyler’s best friend and roommate, Aidan (Tate Ellington), who was arrested with him, sees Alyssa embracing the cop who arrested them (Chris Cooper) outside of NYU. Realizing that he is her father, he convinces Tyler to date the girl so he can get back at the cop. In most movies, these plans fall through. Boy winds up falling for girl, girl finds out his plan, puts on a wounded “how could you do that to me” face, and storms out. Because the writers of Remember Me subscribe to the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” theory, that’s exactly what happens. The audience shouldn’t expect anything less from this uncomfortably trite mess.
The rest of the movie focuses on three relationships: Tyler and Alyssa, Tyler and his sister Caroline, and Tyler and his father. For the most part, Pattinson and de Ravin have no chemistry. Pattinson plays essentially the same character he has uncomfortably played in all his movies save for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Since that film, it’s like someone has sucked out his soul, because he spends all his time on screen about to burst into tears. He needs to lighten up a little, because he drags everyone down with him. Sadly, de Ravin isn’t much better. Here, she plays a more wooden version of her character Claire from television’s Lost, albeit with a horrible American accent. Alyssa is written as one big stock character, from her aspirations of becoming a social worker after her mom’s murder to her rebellious behavior towards her understandably overprotective father. She doesn’t bring much to the role.
Whenever Tyler shares the screen with his sister Caroline (played by the charming Ruby Jerins), the movie finally comes to life. These two have amazing chemistry. Whenever they’re together, Pattinson lets loose and actually becomes likeable and relatable. Jerins is a wonderful revelation with whom the viewer connects to emotionally more than anyone else in the movie. Bullied at school, her Caroline is a delightful moppet who reveres her big brother; he is the escape from her grammar school hell. It must also be noted that, at least on screen, she is a far better artist than Tyler. She paints heartbreaking pictures of her brother and preoccupied father (played by Pierce Brosnan, who commands every scene he’s in).
The screenplay, by Will Fetters, attempts to be charmingly foppish, like the far superior 500 Days of Summer, but frequently ends up falling flat. Lines like, “I used to be a falconer,” a random aside that’s intended to garner laughs, but instead produces uncomfortable silence, pervade the film. It is a wholly unbelievable script. Where in New York City is there room for an entire carnival? What human being with manners chooses to disclose the details of her mother’s murder within five minutes of meeting her boyfriend’s father? The most jarring part of the film is the ending, which is extremely upsetting because it is so manipulative. It doesn’t make sense or fit with the rest of the film, but rather, it comes across as exploitative and wrong. “I feel like I’ve seen this a hundred times,” de Ravin exclaims at one point in the film. She could easily be speaking for the whole audience.