© 2007 Ray Wong
I really wanted to like Premonition, a mystery-thriller with the über-likable Sandra Bullock, because I enjoyed The Lake House a lot. Actually, I am split about the film, and I will tell you why later.
The story opens on a Thursday. Linda Hanson (Bullock) is a housewife with two beautiful girls, Bridgette (Burness) and Megan (McClure). Her husband, Jim (McMahon) is on a business trip. Later during the day, she notices a strange voicemail from her husband; just then, a sheriff knocks on her door and tells her that Jim was killed in an auto accident the day before. But how could Jim have died if she just got his voicemail today? Shocked, Linda asks her mother Joanne (Nelligan) to come and help take care of the girls and deal with the tragedy. Exhausted, she falls asleep on the couch.
When Linda wakes up, she finds Jim alive and well. Confused, she goes about her day thinking maybe she's had a bad dream. But it feels too real to her, and she's seeing people she's never met before (such as the sheriff). Then, Linda wakes up again, and it's now Saturday, the day of the funeral. But Linda has no idea what is happening. She has no memory of anything, including another accident that happened. One bad thing leads to another, sending her into a psychiatric ward.
But then, she wakes up again and it's now Tuesday. Once Linda realizes what's going on, she starts to piece everything together, and she realizes that she's having premonitions, and Wednesday (or Thursday, when she heard the news) hasn't really happened yet, and that she can still stop Jim's death. But should she? Her marriage to Jim is falling apart, and she suspects that he's having an affair. She asks, "If I let Jim die, is it the same as murder?" What is she going to do?
Sandra Bullock (The Lake House) sinks her teeth in yet another paranormal romance, but this time she shows more of her dramatic edge. She usually picks roles that fit her real-life personality, and as Linda Hanson, she displays a genuine vulnerability that makes us want to root for her. Her emotional range is excellent. As her husband, Julian McMahan (Fantastic Four) holds his own in a relatively small role. His calm and distant performance makes for a great counterpoint to Bullock's emotional turmoil. Though his role is small, his portrayal is pivotal to Bullock's character arc.
Courtney Taylor Burness (Fur) and Shyann McClure (House M.D.) are good as the daughters. Thank goodness they don't overact like other child actors, and they give the film its needed warmth and gravity. As Linda's concerned mother, Kate Nelligan (The Cider House Rules) gives a solid performance, with enough conflict to make us ache for her decisions. Nia Long (Big Mama's House) doesn't have much to do as Linda's best friend -- her role is rather peripheral and probably not even necessary. Peter Stormare (Nacho Libre) has a small role as a creepy psychiatrist. For some reason, I suspect that his role was much larger in the original script (I've heard there was as different ending...)
Speaking of the script, written by Bill Kelly (Blast from the Past), it's really confusing and complicated -- at least in the beginning -- when the time line is all jumbled and we can't really tell what is real. I got confused because I thought it was a time-traveling story, until I reminded myself that it's about "premonition," as the title indicates. Still, the non-linear storytelling (as far as the real time line is concerned) can be very challenging to understand, especially when things are changed around Linda. Did she cause the changes? Can she change the future? Like Butterfly Effects, the cause-effect plot can be mind-numbing. There are too many inconsistencies.
Even if you figure out the time line and the story arc, there still seem to be too many plot holes. And even when I understand what is real and what is premonition, I still have trouble figuring out why the order? Why Monday first instead of Sunday, if she's going to live her real life in chronological order. It's baffling, and judging from the buzz on Internet bulletin boards, I know many people feel the same way. And I think that's a detriment to the screenwriter. True, Donnie Darko has a weird time line and is challenging to understand as well, and it went on to become a cult classic. But I do think that Kelly is trying too hard to be clever and the script becomes needlessly complicated. Unfortunately, the plotting is not as tight or meticulous to compensate for the complexity.
German director Mennan Yapo (Framed) should be given kudos for weaving this jumbled plot into something that is at least entertaining. Of course, Sandra Bullock's performance contributes to that. Still, I think much of the movie plods along too slowly. There are of course intrigue and mysteries and suspense, but there were times when I looked at my watch and wished the pace would pick up. And the ending. I think I understand the meaning of the ending, and why they want it that way. Premonition is really a philosophical meditation of love, relationships, meanings, and choices. Still, for anyone expecting some kind of real resolution, the ending is a letdown. The whole thing seems like a long revelation. I'm looking forward to seeing the alternate ending.
On top of that, just because of how the events are played out, it's very frustrating to watch Linda repeating everything she "sees" in her premonitions, and without noticing that she's doing it. I mean, hello? She's not all that bright, is she? And that's frustrating. If she knows her husband is going to die or something is going to happen to her daughter, why not try everything she can to stop it, like tying him up or something? I understand -- yes, I do -- why the events have to happen because of its philosophical theme, but as a story, the character loses her credibility. And that's one thing I find very annoying. I really wanted to love this movie, but if I had had any premonition about this before, I would have chosen to wait for it on Netflix.
Stars: Sandra Bullock, Julian McMahon, Shyann McClure, Courtney Taylor Burness, Nia Long, Peter Stomare, Kate Nelligan
Director: Mennan Yapo
Writers: Bill Kelly
Distributor: Sony Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violent, disturbing images, thematic material and brief language
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 6.7 out of 10