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'Remember Me'

MOVIE REVIEW

'Twilight's' Robert Pattinson looks good in romantic mode but his latest film needs more heart than heartthrob.

March 12, 2010|By BETSY SHARKEY, Film Critic

There's only one thing that loves Robert Pattinson more than his legions of hysterical teenage fans and that's the camera. Which helps but doesn't quite save the earnest new romantic drama "Remember Me," whose filmmakers hang everything on those chiseled cheeks and moody eyes.

Like Tyler, the angst-ridden 21-year-old NYU student he plays, scowling between class and the coffee shop where he pours all those conflicted feelings into a battered journal, the "Twilight" star is still very much a work in progress.

Pattinson has definitely figured out how to look the part, wearing "brooding" like a James Dean leather jacket, and director Allen Coulter truly does bet the bank on it, with moments like this setting the tone: He's shirtless, with perfectly constructed bed head, the morning sun streaming over his shoulders as he makes shadow puppets on the naked back of his still sleeping girlfriend, Ally ("Lost's" Emilie de Ravin). That lingering shot, and dozens of equally adoring ones like it, could fill a young Hollywood hunks calendar in no time.

But this is a movie, not a magazine spread, and therein lies the rub. What the actor hasn't yet found is a way past those soulful eyes into the soul itself. If he does, Pattinson could have the makings of a brilliant career, something more than the hot streak he's got going as the "it" guy of the moment. The same problems plague the film, which is beautifully shot but its emotional potential unrealized.

The story itself is set in a not too distant NYC past, with Tyler still reeling from the death of his brother some years ago. What begins as a revenge date with Ally in that big-city, small-world, minor-skirmish, major-grudge way, soon turns into something more.

Ally's another victim of tragedy, and that mutual society of unprocessed pain becomes their central bond, and the central plot device driving the movie. Both have family issues. Tyler is pulled between poles -- a remote father, Pierce Brosnan as a New York attorney by way of Brooklyn, or at least that's what the accent sounds like, and an emotionally wounded artistic younger sister, played by the delightful Ruby Jerins. Ally, meanwhile, has an over-protective father, a cop ( Chris Cooper) who's having trouble with his daughter growing up.

There is a lot of working through relationship and life issues undertaken in "Remember Me," and screenwriter Will Fetters, in his first feature, shows a nice facility with dialogue, which helps offset some of the weaknesses in the plot. Fetters has a particularly good ear for those circling seductions of slacker twentysomethings, as they waver between arrogance and uncertainty, half-finished metaphors hanging like smoke in the air.

Speaking of smoke, Pattinson does a lot of it, to the point that the dangling cigarette in the iconic way of Brando or Dean starts to feel a little forced. Thankfully, Tyler's bike is man-powered; had they gone with a Harley it would have pushed it all over the edge.

This is the second feature for Coulter, a prolific veteran of high-gloss, high-profile TV drama of the "Sopranos" strain, and is coming four years after a solid debut with the mystery noir, "Hollywoodland. " The filmmaker has created a slightly aged New York that is filled with intellectual discourse conducted in used bookstores and art gallery openings.

But somewhere the heart that must anchor a romantic drama has gone missing. We don't so much feel the relationships as see them. In this, De Ravin and Pattinson are far better at teasing play than steaming up the screen. She has a lightness that is appealing, though there is a regrettable shower fight that doesn't work in anyone's favor.

When the end does come in this overly long film, it hits with such unexpected surprise and force it is sure to be debated. What some will see as a sucker punch, I found more of a footnote, for what ultimately matters in "Remember Me" is all that comes before.

betsy.sharkey@latimes.com

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