Review of “Reminiscence” – The Hollywood Reporter

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If you’re lucky and your memory is good, Rodgers and Hart’s charming standard “Where or When”, sung by mysterious singer Mae from Rebecca Ferguson in Reminiscence, will bring you back to Ellen Burstyn at the piano in Alice doesn’t live here anymore, making her way through the song as she turns to her past to reshape her uncertain future. You should pray that an exquisite distraction persists, transporting you to a movie with a gripping plot, three-dimensional characters, and emotional stakes that draw you in. Or you can stick to the mind-numbing boredom of writer-director Lisa Joy’s debut feature, a mind-fuck black sci-fi from the Christopher Nolan school.

Joy is Nolan’s sister-in-law, which may explain a lot, although she has her own credentials as a successful TV writer – on Grow daisies, Burn notice and especially, Westworld, which she co-created with her husband, Jonathan Nolan. All of which would suggest more persuasive storytelling skills than this lethargic walk through the murky waters of memory, which drowns in heavy platitudes and enigmatic non-sequences disguised as dialogue. Despite its star cast, there are good reasons Warners is throwing the film through the summer heatwave with minimal fanfare.

Reminiscence

The bottom line

Instantly forgettable.

Release date: Friday August 20
To throw: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis, Marina de Tavira, Daniel Wu, Mojean Aria, Brett Cullen, Natalie Martinez, Angela Sarafyan, Nico Parker
Director-screenwriter: Lisa Joy

Rated PG-13, 1 hour 56 minutes

Hugh Jackman plays Nick Bannister, a private investigator who reconnects clients with lost memories through an immersion tank connected to computer gadgets that produce hologram-like visual recordings. These are then archived in Nick’s safe on glass discs, as he’s an analog type.

“Time is no longer a one-way flow,” Nick says in a voiceover gurgling that threatens to never stop. “Memory is the boat that sails against the tide. And I am the rower. There’s loads of this prosaic stuff: “The past is just a series of moments, each perfect, complete, a pearl on the necklace of time.” “Nothing is more addicting than the past.” “Memories are like perfume, best in small doses.” The storytelling is also better in small doses, but Joy is so intoxicated that she repeats the entire opening speech in the last segment.

As business is slow, Nick also takes a side job mining memory deposits for the Miami DA’s office (Natalie Martinez). But not just any old Miami. This one is in – you guessed it! – a dystopian future, in which the rage against the wealthy ruling class is a boiling cauldron. Border wars gave way to civil strife as the waters rose, with barons claiming all the arid lands and pushing the poor and disenfranchised further and further down the submerged coast.

The most powerful of them is Walter Sylvan (Brett Cullen), a Trumpy slum with his fingers in all sorts of bickering and corruption. He has a wife, Tamara (Marina de Tavira), with a foreign accent and a shaky grip on reality, as well as a whiny descendant, Sebastian (Mojean Aria), who learned from daddy not to do his own dirty work. . The representation of this decadent dynasty has all the subtlety of an anal probe. Understandably, there’s a melancholy mistress next door, Elsa (Angela Sarafyan), and an illegitimate young son who becomes an embarrassing bane to Walter’s public profile.

Nick’s only employee in his memory business is Watts (Thandiwe Newton), a loyal former comrade from the days of his enlisted military service who has his own sorrows. She is the most intriguing character in the film, but, unfortunately, a good part of it disappears. Although not before demonstrating his marksmanship and combat skills, stepping in to save Nick as he is about to drown in a tank full of eels at a New Orleans bar by the men hand of drug lord Saint Joe (Daniel Wu), the main district supplier of a highly addictive opiate called baca. During the shootout, a stray bullet hits the jukebox and, faster than you can say, “Chew baca”, “Tainted Love” lights up.

That’s because despite all the plot twists and turns to uncover Walter Sylvan’s nefarious affairs – largely led by crooked cop Cyrus Boothe (Cliff Curtis), who is also in Saint Joe’s pocket – Joy aims to seduce us with romance. The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is cited more than once as jaded Nick finds himself hypnotized by Mae, a femme fatale who takes a plunge into his memory tank ostensibly to retrieve a lost set of keys.

Mae disappears soon after, but she is not forgotten. As Nick previously noted, “Memories have a voracious appetite; if you are not careful, they will consume you. This is what happens when the woman who planted herself in her subconscious with a song from her childhood finds herself in the visualized deposition of someone else, addicted to baca.

While Mae clearly talks about trouble, Nick is unable to resist following his trail, ignoring the concerned warnings from Watts. As a horrific conspiracy is revealed involving Sylvan, Boothe, and Mae, Nick begins to realize that he fell in love and was duped at the same time. Or is the truth behind the shady woman even more tangled up than he could have imagined?

Duh, of course it is! In a film loaded with intrigue, the revelations are like a leaky faucet, just like that purple voiceover. In fact, there is so much going on, much of it behind the literal curtain of memory, that Joy leaves little room for the characters to settle in the here and now. This especially applies to Mae, who remains a distant number even after all the painstaking explanations of her elaborate play. It also doesn’t help the heatless chemistry between Ferguson and Jackman, who have appeared together previously in The greatest showman.

Aside from his dismal Wolverine, given such a haunting life, especially in Logan, Jackman tends to fit in most effectively when there is a touch of mischievous humor in his roles, most recently in Bad Education. His Nick Bannister is an austere presence, much less interesting when he rewrites the tragic end of a Greek myth by swooning over Mae than when he exchanges jokes with Watts.

The most moving scene doesn’t come from the soggy central love story, but the reconciliation of Nick and Watts as he places his future in his hands. Newton (who worked with Joy on Westworld) seems underused in what is basically a sidekick role, but it skillfully sketches a story that makes you want to learn more about the character.

There are more deafening words than action, the latter largely confined to Watts’ rescue of Nick from his contact with Saint Joe, and Nick and Boothe in an extended rooftop fight / chase that ends in the visual blooming of a grand piano plunging into the depths of the water. But violence has little impact because history never acquires enough lucidity to pack so much urgency.

Reminiscence has a sleek, brooding look and a great brooding score per frequent Westworld composer Ramin Djawadi to propel the story in the lack of plot momentum. But like a pearl on the time necklace, these are low quality costume jewelry.

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