By Laurie Coker
Our memories, good or bad, often drive us and guide our lives. Still, some events are better forgotten, like the over two hours spent watching ‘Reminiscence’ starring Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, and Thandie Newton. Writer/director Lisa Joy bites off a lofty challenge of playing with time and memories and ends with a cluttered mess of unforgettable characters floundering in a stupid, sloppy storyline.
‘Reminiscence’ plays out in the future where inexplicably, the world’s major cities are entirely submerged in water. In one place, a private investigator of the mind Nick Bannister (Jackman) and his partner Emily “Watts” Sanders (Newton) aide clients in rediscovering lost memories – from simple to complex. Most want to relive the same perfect day over and over or to solve or to perpetrate crimes, but some have far more shallow intentions. Enter Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), who wanders in one evening searching for her lost car keys. Nick is mesmerized by her mystique and beauty. Oddly, Mae disappears, and he becomes obsessed with figuring out what exactly happened to her. He even uses his machine to connect and seek her out.
Joy plays with lighting a great deal in an effort to add mystery and suspense. Instead, her efforts add to the confusion and lack of cohesiveness developed by a poorly written script. Her style is solid and the cast admirable, but the lack of story substance ultimately fails to connect viewers. Watching without sound might improve the experience. I joke, of course, but Joy’s dialogue does nothing to develop her characters, and all the noir, clever camera play, and creative angles in the world can’t make it so.
To her credit, Joy’s settings are phenomenal and engaging – again, they would be equally so set only to music. Jackman and Newton work well together, and their characters are at least a little bit multidimensional. Rumpled and unshaven, Jackman melds perfectly into the serious gumshoe detective, and Newton shows the spunk for which she’s has become known. But Mae might have been played by any other pretty starlets. I found Ferguson’s portrayal as a violent vixen yawn-able. She looks the part (and sings it), but then so do dozens of other more interesting actors.
‘Reminiscence’ is completely and utterly forgettable. Joy has so much going on that no one situation warrants interest or focus. She cannot seem to ground herself or her plot, and the movie ends up being nothing about nothing. Joy’s direction deserves a better story. Ironic given she penned this mess. ‘Reminiscence’ earns a C- in the grade book. Better writers should invite her behind the camera.