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Premonition (2007) Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 September 2007

Image At first, “Premonition” is interesting, almost fascinating. After a brief scene in which Linda (Sandra Bullock) is presented with their home (an attractive older building) by husband Jim (Julian McMahon), the story jumps forward in a cut to ten years or so later. They now have two daughters, Megan (Shyann McClure), about ten, and Bridgette (Courtney Taylor Burness), several years younger. Jim leaves on a business trip.

After an ordinary morning of taking the girls to school and doing odd jobs, the local sheriff (Marc Macaulay) arrives at her front door to gently break the news: Jim has been killed in a car wreck. Linda is stunned, staggering through the rest of the day; she has to tell her daughters about their father, and her mother Joanne (Kate Nelligan) arrives to help. Finally, exhausted, she falls asleep.

And awakes to find Jim alive, taking a shower. Confused, uncertain, Linda tries to roll with the blow, especially when no one else seems to think there was a time when Jim was dead. She falls asleep again that night—to awaken only to find her husband dead. And this keeps happening, not alternating exactly, but with her facing a new reality every day.

It’s not “Groundhog Day” with a car wreck, it’s something else (but similar): for unguessable (and unexplained) reasons, Linda has come unstuck in time, like Billy Pilgrim, and is living out the week of Jim’s death one day at a time—but the days have somehow been knocked out of order for Linda. Her straight-ahead perception zig-zags through the week.

At first, this is fascinating, a clever idea handled by an intelligent director (German Mennan Yapo, with only one previous feature to his credit) and an acceptable cast. Bullock, of course, is more than acceptable; she’s one of those actors whom everyone seems to like—and why not? She’s alert, funny, attractive and can suffer with the best of them. She has to do a lot of suffering in this movie. But there’s something arbitrary to Bill Kelly’s script. WHY is Linda’s consciousness bopping around in time like a ping-pong ball? What started it? Are these even premonitions? Doesn’t look like it to me, particularly because there’s no “zero point” night, no one night when she has dreams of possible future events. There’s an interesting, even instructive, featurette, “Bringing Order Out of Chaos,” which briefly reorganizes each of the days into a standard linear order. Okay, we can understand that—but why did this start happening to Linda? Usually, premonitions are warnings—this may come to pass—which the alert can pay heed to, and change the possible future they foresaw. That’s not what’s going on here; the trouble is that there seems little point to what IS going on—and this is only underscored by the “Order Out of Chaos” featurette, not explained.

At the beginning (to us and to Linda), it’s pretty clear that their marriage has hit a rocky patch; they’re not much interested in each other any longer, and Linda finally learns, in her zig-zagging manner, that Jim was on the verge of having an affair with a co-worker (Amber Valletta). The chaotic mess her life has become helps Linda to realize (once again) that her husband is something special, even if he is a car dealer, someone worth trying to save. But couldn’t she have learned this without the order of her days flying into fragments? Does it really do her very much good to find this out? The movie is very serious about all this; there’s nothing at all light to the fantasy aspects. But while everything makes sense in the world we’re watching, it’s dramatically not just inconclusive, but incapable of becoming conclusive.

Yapo is a good director; scenes are well-staged, often imaginatively so; he’s very good with the children, and the adults give realistic, involving performances. But he was saddled with a script that needed at least one or two more rewrites—or perhaps it should have been junked altogether. It was made by Bullock’s own company and filmed in Shreveport after Katrina wiped out the intended New Orleans locations. It’s a very handsome film, with excellent production design (J. Dennis Washington) and wide-screen photography (Torsten Lippstock). And there are some good scenes; early on, after word comes of Jim’s death, the mood is very well sustained, and the score (Klaus Badelt) is evocative and tender.

But the more trouble Linda has from the disarrangement of her days, the less interested we become; we know an explanation will come along sooner or later, but instead of waiting with eager involvement, we become impatient and cranky, waiting for the movie to just get itself done with.

The extras are standard—there’s a making-of that’s only of moderate interest, a few deleted scenes (including an alternate ending the movie is much better without), a gag reel consisting (like most such) of blown takes, and a commentary track by Yapo and Bullock, who seem fond of each other. Trouble is, they can’t find anything very interesting to say, although you do come away thinking Bullock would be great fun to meet for lunch or drinks. A documentary on “real” premonitions is slick and professional, but doesn’t do much to convince skeptics that premonitions are anything more than coincidences.

It’s becoming obvious that studios aren’t cherry-picking movies to be released in high-definition video; they’re pulling in older successes, but just about all new releases, simply because they almost certainly already exist in a digital state and can be transferred to high-definition video with ease. In “Premonition,” there’s some minor value to the film being in this process; there are several scenes of Linda falling asleep, then waking up in different clothes. The texture and visual temperature of the cloth catches our attention, emphasizing that this is different fabric than we saw in the last, presumably consecutive, scene. This change does add a touch of suspense, but ultimately, it’s so minor that it’s forgettable.

Unfortunately, that applies to “Premonition” as well.

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