Film critics, like movie audiences, are fairly optimistic when it comes to movies. They go in, hoping for the best, and not really expecting the worst. So when they encounter the worst -- as inevitably happens sometimes -- it is like stealing candy from a baby. Unexpected, dismaying, disappointing. You, filmmakers responsible for Remember Me, are candy thieves.
Quite honestly, I did not have lofty expectations for Remember Me, but neither did I expect to be enraged by a cheap stunt of an ending. Remember Me stars Robert Pattinson, better known to Harry Potter fans as the late Cedric Diggory, and to Twilight fans as Edward, the dreamy vampire. To fans of both movie series, he is probably bigger than Jesus. Pattinson once said that his hair is 75% of his performance in Twilight. I believe it. His hair is fantastic in Remember Me, a gravity-defying mop of carefully tousled bedhead hair. It's devil-may-care hair, rebel hair, the kind of hair James Dean would have if James Dean were young and brooding and poetic and in his early twenties right now. The rest of Remember Me does not live up to that hair, but for a while at least, it gives it a go.
The story begins in 1991, when young Ally Craig witnesses the murder of her mother. Ten years later, Ally (Emilie de Ravin) is a college student in New York City, and her father Neil Craig (Chris Cooper), a cop, is understandably overprotective. Craig's a bit of a hothead too. Hothead cop encounters Tyler Hawkins (Pattinson), who is barhopping and protesting injustice along with his pal Aidan (Tate Ellington). Craig throws them both in jail. This is not so bad, because Tyler's father Charles Hawkins (Pierce Brosnan) is a wealthy, powerful attorney. But Tyler hates his father for various reasons, mostly because he thinks the old man is cold and heartless and drove Tyler's older brother to suicide. And he's not terribly kind to Tyler's little sister Caroline (Ruby Jerins), who has a hard enough time with all the snooty kids at her private school. Tyler, has, accordingly, taken to living in squalor with Aidan, and dressing in vintage clothing to demonstrate his anti-bourgeois cred. He also smokes like a chimney, writes poetry, and works at The Strand bookstore, so you can be sure he is very tortured.
And so, when Aidan figures out that Ally is the daughter of the cop who arrested them, he talks Tyler into asking her out, to get back at her pop the cop. There's no reason for Tyler to go along with this jerkwad scheme, really, except that later in the movie, when Ally finds out, it will give her a reason to get mad at Tyler and walk out on him. This will give Tyler another reason to feel alienated and mopey, in addition to the aforementioned. Remember Me is a love story about Tyler and Ally, and how two souls, one pretty tortured, and the other just a little traumatized, find happiness together in this crazy world and as a result, some good stuff happens.
Remember Me, written by Will Fetters, has a labored and contrived plot, a chatty script, and a title that implies impending doom. And indeed, doom looms. But first, love blooms for Ally and Tyler, and Remember Me brings to mind Love Story, in which star-crossed young college-aged romantics dither and bicker and fall in love and so forth, and Ordinary People, with its family traumatized by the death of a son. Mostly, though, Remember Me pretty shamelessly rips off Rebel Without A Cause, with Pattinson as a faux James Dean doing everything except yell "You're tearing me apart!" He does yell at his dad, and broods and slouches quite a lot, and engages in fisticuffs more often than one would expect. I don't think anyone could have really made Tyler a convincing character -- he's a walking, talking collection of disaffected youth cliches with a three day stubble. To his credit, Pattinson convincingly plays the part of cool, caring older brother in Tyler's scenes with Caroline.
Director Allen Coulter does not manage to inject any realism into all the affected torment. Neither does he reign in the wandering Noo Yawk accents that the very un-New York actors gamely wrestle with. Cooper and Brosnan are both fine actors utterly undone by unfamiliar vowels. Pattinson doesn't bother, and neither does de Ravin (who is Australian), but both manage to sound American.
In addition to love and good stuff, a lot of bad stuff happens in Remember Me, but nothing as bad as what happens at the end, which pretty much pulls the rug out from under the movie in a big, cheap, manipulative, exploitative, infuriating twist. I'm not the sort to spoil a movie, although if ever a movie was spoilin' for a spoilin', it is this one. I'll just say this: terrible things happen in the world sometimes, and movies ought not exploit those terrible things for no good reason. And there was no good reason to exploit this particular terrible thing. There weren't even any bad reasons to use this particular terrible thing in this particular terrible (as it turns out) movie. The ending does serve one purpose: it turns an otherwise forgettable movie into one I will long remember, but not fondly.