Review: Reminiscence

By Christian DiMartino

Hugh Jackman stars in the new science fiction mystery Reminiscence. Well, “new” might not be the right word. Anyways, the film goes a little like this: Before performing Inception, Jackman files a Minority Report in Chinatown. He begins experiencing some Strange Days though after a Blade Runner enters The Matrix, and he soon finds himself somewhere near the Vanilla Sky.

Ya dig?

Reminiscence feels like a bunch of far better, more interesting films thrown into some sort of cinematic blender. This film walks like one of those, it talks like one of those. Yet we have all seen those, and so many like them, that when the film provides exposition (and boy, does it provide exposition), we groan because we’ve heard it all before. The characters in Reminiscence talk the way that people in movies like this talk, and at times, it couldn’t be more cliche.

The film is set in the future, in a city in which the vast majority of the roads are water. Why? I… don’t recall, it’s probably explained in one of Jackman’s numerous voiceover information dumps. Anyways, Jackman plays… eh, I don’t remember, but him and Thandie Newton run a business in which they are able to access people’s memories, and they search the memories for whatever clues can help people find what they’re looking for. It can be keys, it can be where a breakup went wrong. You know.

In walks Rebecca Ferguson’s Mae, and the only reason I remember her name is because every time someone said her name, I thought they were saying “me.” Hugh takes an immediate liking to her, and in one of the movies’ smarter moves, we flash forward to him using the Reminiscence machine. Turns out, Hugh and Mae fell in love, and she has since vanished, and he is using the machine to try and figure out why she might’ve left, if she left. The reasoning for Mae’s absence leads Hugh down a labyrinthine plot line “reminiscent” of something like Chinatown, with a lot of different names thrown around and conspiracies and yada yada.

Reminiscence is reminiscent of every movie mentioned in the first paragraph. It even looks like some of them. There is a shot here of Jackman and Ferguson walking by the water that, I kid you not, is completely stolen from Inception. The dialogue is also reminiscent of them. Jackman, Newton and Ferguson are all fine performers, and they’re not to blame for this. Yet you can imagine even them eliciting a groan once they yelled “cut.” “Memory is the boat that sails against its current,” Jackman says at one point. Yeah, that sounds like something out of one of Christopher Nolan’s diaries.

I will say, the movie does LOOK marvelous. It’s certainly not incompetent, in that the production values, from the production design to the score and so on, look nice and expensive. The movie looks so good that I wish the movie were good. Cliches and familiarity aside, Reminiscence might have gotten by if it was at least entertaining. Alas, the movie felt like a slog. The material never really achieves liftoff, and since it’s difficult to connect with any of the characters, as well as what’s going on around them, it’s just sort of difficult to invest yourself in any of it.

The film is written and directed by Lisa Joy, who with Jonathan Nolan created the mostly excellent series Westworld. I say mostly excellent because I don’t know what the hell that second season was about. It seemed like a lot of large ideas, and none of them fully stuck. That’s kind of how I feel about this film, too. It looks great, and everyone who made this film gives off the impression that they knew what they were writing, and cared about what they were writing. I admire what the film was going for. It’s just difficult for us to care about what we’re watching, thus making it a slog.

It’s ironic that a movie about memories will barely remain in ours after we see it. I saw it two days ago and I kept forgetting to review it. See? Anyways, what movie are we talking about again? Evanescence? Transcendence? Yeah, something like that.

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