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New York City is crawling with self-serious NYU students, styling themselves after James Dean with rumpled clothes and bad attitudes, mooning over a girl they barely know and convinced that their deep feelings are the deepest the world has ever known. As a rule, we hate these kids, and the last thing any of us would want to see is a movie celebrating their youth and idealism and romantic passion-- film students make enough of those as it is. But unfortunately for all of us, this weekend we're stuck with Remember Me, a soppy and self-important story about young love in Manhattan and the "bolts from the blue" that can change lives forever.
You may have heard that there's a big, ridiculous twist at the end of this movie, and I won't spoil it except to say it opens with a prologue set in 1991 and then takes place one summer ten years later, and well, you can probably put it together from there. The prologue depicts the moment where young Ally (played by Emilie de Ravin all grown up) witnesses the senseless murder of her mother on a subway platform, leading her 10 years later to a strained relationship with her stern cop dad (Chris Cooper) and a life philosophy to "live in the moment." She's the kind of girl who eats dessert first and always says how she feels-- you know, the kind of girl who only exists in the movies.
Our tortured rich boy protagonist Tyler (Robert Pattinson) starts dating Ally at first to exact revenge on her dad, who beat Tyler up after a bar fight. The revenge angle feels like a vestigial element of an earlier script draft (Will Fetters' screenplay was rewritten by an uncredited Jenny Lumet, among others), as it's dropped once Tyler and Ally fall in love only to be brought back as a convenient second-act plot twist. In the meantime Tyler is constantly squabbling with his distant dad (Pierce Brosnan), bonding with his outcast little sister (Ruby Jerins), and constantly scribbling down his deep thoughts in an effort to be a real writer. Oh, did I mention there's a dead brother lurking in the background there? That's another plot element brought in and out of relevance based on when they need a big emotional outburst.
With so much going on you'd expect Remember Me to bounce energetically among its subplots, but the movie is sluggish and slow, lingering on de Ravin and Pattinson in post-coital embraces or going through endless, pointless conversations that are intended to illustrate some grand, larger point. Sadly the big points of the script are fairly mundane-- Live life to the fullest! Take advantage of every moment! Don't be afraid to find happiness! If you've guessed the giant anvil of a twist that's about to come crashing down, based on the hints sporadically placed throughout the film, the messages will seem even more trite.
The one bright spot of the whole film is that Pattinson finally gets a chance to, you know, actually act-- while Tyler does about as much moping as Edward Cullen, he feels much more like an actual character, and Pattinson's charms and depths as a performer occasionally shine through the mawkish dialogue. De Ravin is good too, despite the wobbly American accent, but her character is a bit too much of a cipher to give the actress anywhere to go. Director Allen Coulter comes up with some nicely experiential shots and edits to showcase the love story, and his authentic sense of New York is excellent, but he fails to realize the shallowness at the center of the screenplay he's working with. With so little to go on, the movie has no choice but to flail. Remember Me makes for a decent graduation for Twilight fans now ready for actual adult emotions, but anyone older than the central characters-- and really, most smart 22-year-olds too-- will recognize the movie is full of hot air.