I see dead box office
Poor Sandra Bullock. With most of the rest of us, when we get mail, it usually comes from people who wrote to us sometime within the last few days. When we go to bed one night, we usually wake up sometime during the morning of the following day. Not Sandra; the normal rules of the space-time continuum don’t seem to apply to her. If I were in her shoes, it would drive me crazy.
Last year, in The Lake House, Bullock exchanged notes with Keanu Reeves through the mailbox of the eponymous residence, only to learn that he lived in the house two years before she did, rather than moving in right after she moved out. Now comes Premonition, in which Bullock plays Linda Hanson, a happily married housewife with a handsome husband Jim (Julian McMahon), two mega-cute daughters Bridgette (Courtney Taylor Burness) and Megan (Shyann McClure), and a beautiful house in suburban wherever-they-go-to-make-movies-and-get-away-from-the-Hollywood-unions-these-days.
One Thursday, while waiting for Jim to return from an overnight business trip, Linda answers the doorbell to find the local sheriff squirming on her front step. The sheriff relays the terrible news that Jim has been killed in an automobile accident. Stunned and gasping, Linda can only stammer, “That’s impossible, I just heard him on our answering machine.”
It’s a natural and understandable disorientation, but it’s only the beginning for Linda. That night, while her mother (Kate Nelligan) puts the girls to bed upstairs, Linda, exhausted by grief, falls asleep clutching a wedding picture on the living-room couch. When she wakes up, she’s in her own bed. Going downstairs expecting to find her mother, she is stunned once again. It’s Monday, and Jim is sitting in the kitchen, sipping his coffee, about to leave for work. Linda thinks she must have had an incredibly vivid dream.
But she can’t shake an uneasy feeling—especially when she nearly runs a stoplight and gets a gentle admonition from the same sheriff she “dreamed” about the day (night?) before. Going to bed that night, she’s still uneasy, but all seems right. More or less.
When she wakes up, her house is full of people dressed in black with sad, sympathetic eyes. It’s Friday, and Jim is dead again. As if that weren’t bad enough, daughter Bridgette has terrible cuts and stitches all over her face.
After that, things get confusing. Somewhere along the line Jim’s alive again, then still clinging tenaciously to death. Bridgette’s face is fine, then the scars are back. Then there’s a dead crow in the backyard. Then Linda’s being hauled away to the loony bin. Then she meets the psychiatrist who committed her the day before. Or was it two days later? Linda starts keeping track, scribbling a makeshift calendar on butcher paper and hiding it under the dining-room tablecloth. Through all this time-hopping and Jim’s-dead-oops-no-he-isn’t, that calendar obligingly stays in place, patiently waiting for Linda to yank it out and start scribbling again.
If you make it this far into Premonition, your Gimme-a-Break Meter will probably be red-lined long before director Mennan Yapo drags you over the shaggy-dog finish line. If that happens, you may want to while away the movie’s waning minutes by reflecting on why The Lake House worked and Premonition doesn’t. (On the other hand, if you don’t think The Lake House worked, I assume you wouldn’t go within a mile of a screen showing Premonition.)
For one thing, Premonition has a script by Bill Kelly, whose only other credit is 1999’s Blast from the Past—which, like Premonition, had a cleverly odd premise (man faces modern life after 35 years in a fallout shelter) that went nowhere in execution. Conversely, The Lake House was written by playwright David Auburn, whose Pulitzer-winning play Proof didn’t let its theme of esoteric mathematics overwhelm the dynamics of character. In the same way, The Lake House was about the characters, not the time-warp gimmick. Also, Bullock had a proven rapport with Keanu Reeves (even when they weren’t on screen together) that she doesn’t share with the blankly handsome McMahon (even when they are).
For the (ahem) future, Sandra might want to form a one-woman chapter of Time Travelers Anonymous. And take her next movie one day at a time.