Robert Pattinson is a rebellious rich kid who falls for the beautiful daughter (Emilie de Ravin) of a surly New York City cop (Chris Cooper) during the summer leading up to 9/11.
He’s in the middle of the “Twilight” of his career, but Robert Pattinson still knows little about acting. Sure, he can brood with the best of them, including the king of doe-eyed pensiveness, James Dean. But ask him to express genuine emotion and you’re likely to get something as strained and awkward as what’s on display in the relentlessly maudlin “Remember Me.”
In it, he plays a sensitive, angst-ridden young man (is there any other kind?) who hates his wealthy, disaffected father and despises everything the old man stands for in his ivory-tower world. In other words, his Tyler is a walking, talking cliché pulled directly from the Holden Caulfield school of depressed, grief-stricken youths who keep their true emotions hidden behind soulful eyes and tousled hair.
It’s also a role many actors have tried, but only a few – namely Jake Gyllenhaal in “Donnie Darko” and Johnny Depp in “Edward Scissorhands” – have pulled off because so much of the performance must come from within. To make it work, they need to let us see inside their souls, often without uttering a word.
Try looking into Pattinson’s soul and all you’ll see is the vapidness of a Benton model. Sure, his face is great to look at, but there’s absolutely nothing behind it.
Ditto for Tyler’s equally depressed blue-collar girlfriend, Ally, portrayed with the same mannequin-like style by Emilie de Ravin of “Lost” fame. She’s lost, all right, but then so is the script by Will Fetters, doing the worst imaginable impersonation of a Nicholas Sparks novel.
Like Sparks, Fetters likes to ladle on the treacle, rendering his star-crossed young lovers so mawkish and self-absorbed that you seriously wonder exactly what it is they see in each other. They also arrive toting enough baggage to fill the cargo hold on the Boeing 757s that will eventually come between them.
She witnessed her mother’s murder on a subway platform when she was 11; his brother committed suicide at age 22; her father (a wasted Chris Cooper) is a powder-keg bully with the NYPD; his father (Pierce Brosnan phoning in) is a Wall Street titan with no time for family; she has trust issues; he has an annoying roommate (Tate Ellington) you pray will kiss a train; she likes Ani DiFranco; he likes music no self-respecting man would ever lend an ear.
On and on it goes until the poor girl from “Precious” begins looking like she’s had it pretty easy by comparison. Yet, there’s something irresistibly appealing in “Remember Me’s” unrelenting awfulness.
Yes, it’s the old “it’s so bad it’s good” phenomenon at work. And you’re all too willing to go along with it. Or at least you are until the third act. That’s when Fetters does something that’s as stupid as it is ballsy by dragging the events of Sept. 11, 2001, into the mix.
Not only is it tacky, it’s a cheap ploy for tears, one that everyone associated with the film should be ashamed of, including director Allen Coulter (“Hollywoodland”), who has reduced one of the most cataclysmic days in recent history to a plot device. And one that makes the loss of one life seem vastly more important than the nearly 3,000 others who perished that day.
The idea, according to the producers, is to highlight the preciousness of each moment we live on earth. But if life really is that dear, why should we waste two hours of it on something as forgettable as “Remember Me”?
Or, for that matter, Pattinson, whose every big moment elicits laughter instead of empathy? It’s nice that he’s attempting to expand his horizons beyond the tweener scene by sinking his fangs into something meatier than a vampire on a blood-free diet. But it would be even nicer if he’d do it on his time, not ours.
REMEMBER ME (PG-13 for violence, sexual content, language and smoking.) Cast includes Robert Pattinson, Emilie de Ravin, Chris Cooper and Pierce Brosnan. Directed by Allen Coulter. 2 stars out of 4.
Reach Al Alexander at email@example.com.