March 22, 2007

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Premonition (PG-13)
Sandra Bullock contemplates the death of Julian McMahon and whether it’s worth stopping (meh) in the widow-fantasy Premonition.

Linda (Bullock) and Jim (McMahon) are a neutrally-married couple with two young daughters and an insanely nice house that Jim pays for and Linda tends. She drops the kids at school, cleans the kitchen, goes jogging, does the laundry and answers the door when a sheriff shows up to tell her that Jim has died in a car accident. She tearfully tells her children, calls her mom to help her take care of them so she can be consumed by guilt and falls asleep hugging her wedding portrait.

When she wakes the next morning, she’s in her bed and comes downstairs to find that Jim is in the kitchen having breakfast. She proceeds warily through her day with the sense that everything is off. She wakes up the next morning to find that she’s drunk herself to sleep and that her living room is full of people waiting to go to Jim’s funeral. Also her mother and her best friend are talking to her in a “that’s alright, crazy person” voice and her oldest daughter has mysterious scars on her face.

Linda wakes the next morning to find Jim in the shower, which causes her to feel even crazier than the day before (which may or may not have actually been the day before this one). She’s really suspicious about the whole dead-husband/not-dead husband this time and even winds up in a therapist’s office, though his unplaceable European accent clues us in that he’s not to be trusted.

Somewhere in all this we learn that Jim (1) might have been unfaithful but (2) had a large insurance policy, (3) which gives Linda enough to pay for the insanely nice house and live her middle-class life without having to work (4) or maybe even sell her house and by a nicer one, by a lake (though not, strictly speaking, The Lake House). Tell me this isn’t the bored housewife stuck in a passionless marriage fantasy about widowhood.

After making Jim a rather unlikeable character and Linda a borderline crazy one (who is also a slow learner; she literally has to make a little chart before she really catches on to what’s happening), the movie seems to settle on “every day is a miracle” as its guiding principle (“love conquering all” by that point being sort of irrelevant as we don’t believe these characters love each other nor do we care about either one of them individually). That this message is delivered by Jude Ciccolella, one of many shifty government officials on 24 who here plays a priest with whom Linda has a non sequitur conversation, makes it seem all the more strange and limp.

After a while of half-hearted shuffling the pieces of Premonition’s lazy puzzle it occurred to me that it might not have a big reveal, a big answer to the what-if-you-could-go-back question. It occurred to me that the only payoff might be seeing the accident that caused such horrible injury to Jim that, when his casket accidentally opens in one scene, his head comes rolling out. That particular scene was strangely graphic compared to the rest of the movie — almost like it had been shoehorned it to make the movie more, well, something, shocking, maybe, or suspenseful. But, like a gratuitous boob shot or sudden, inexplicable explosion, Julian McMahon’s rolling head was more comic than anything else.

Premonition isn’t a love story, a suspense film or a supernatural thriller. It’s a warning to the husbands of bored wives. Flirt with your secretary and the sight of your severed head will be played for laughs. C-

Rated PG-13 for some violent content, disturbing images, thematic material and brief language. Directed by Mennan Yapo and written by Bill Kelly, Premonition is an hour and 37 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Sony Pictures