By Joe Lozito
Intuition Don't Make It So
In "Premonition" - a time-tripping attempt to do for marital malaise what "Groundhog Day" did for commitmentphobia - a bored housewife named Linda (Sandra Bullock) wakes up one day, like any other day, and goes about her daily routine. She makes breakfast, takes the kids to school, jogs, does laundry - the usual. The day then takes a tragic turn when Linda learns, from an all too cryptic policeman, that her husband (Julian McMahon from "Nip/Tuck") has been killed in a car accident. Understandably, Linda takes the rest of the day to grieve and console her two daughters before passing out on the couch. The next day she wakes up in her bed…next to her husband - who is, it turns out, quite alive. Was it all a dream? Eventually (and it takes her a while to figure it out) it becomes clear that Linda is living the days of one week in random order. And, at some point, her husband is going to die. It's an intriguing concept for a film with something to say, or a character with the smarts to use this phenomenon to her advantage. "Premonition" has neither.
In the film's early moments, director Mennan Yapo - who made 2004's appropriately atmospheric "Soundless" - does an admirable job of keeping the audience off balance - at times quite literally; his frequent swaying handheld shots produce a vertiginous effect. But as the film progresses and the audience struggles to keep track of the days, even fancy camera moves don't help. I could see what relative-newcomer Bill Kelly was trying to do with his script: he meant to say something about treasuring each day because the end could come at anytime. But the effect of jumping randomly around the days of one week as if "they were thrown up in the air like a deck of cards" is too arbitrary to produce any real intrigue and repeated trips to find her husband in the shower brought to mind a certain infamous "Dallas" season finale (I half expected Patrick Duffy to be standing there). It's clear the film is struggling to keep the suspense up when it throws in the peculiar casting of Peter Stormare as Dr. Roth, filmdom's most ominous psychiatrist.
It's hard to dislike Sandra Bullock. Whether she's playing the lovelorn (The Lake House
) or the love-starved ("28 Days"), the actress has an innate charm that can make some of the drippiest material palatable. Since "Speed", Ms. Bullock has tried her hand at thrillers with largely disappointing results ("The Net", "Murder By Numbers"). The obvious reason would appear to be the questionable material involved, but that's not entirely the case ("Miss Congeniality" wasn't brilliant writing, but it played to Ms. Bullock's charisma). In "Premonition", I think the actress smiles a total of once in 100 minutes on screen. Granted, it's radiant when she does, but that's not enough to save the film.
"Groundhog Day" is one of our best comedies for two very obvious reasons: (1) it never tries to explain why the same day is repeated again and again; and (2) it never, ever takes itself seriously. "Premonition" trips up on both those counts. When the wonderful Jude Ciccolella from TV's "24" shows up as a priest who offers some explanation for Linda's predicament (something about the "curse of the faithless" - don't ask), it elicits the kind of snickers that the film could have gotten if it wasn't so relentlessly somber. The most frustrating part of "Premonition" may be that, when Linda (finally) figures out what's happening to her (long after the audience has), she does nothing with the information. That's not the Sandra Bullock the audience wants. The Sandra Bullock I know and love would have gotten behind the wheel of a bus and driven her family into a better movie. Now that's something I'd pay to see.