Film Fare...with M.V. Moorhead
In The Forgotten, Julianne Moore plays Telly Paretta, a married book editor living in Brooklyn, and in misery. She’s paralyzed with bereavement over the loss, 14 months earlier, of her son Sam in an airplane crash. Her husband (Anthony Edwards) and her shrink (Gary Sinise) are trying to guide Telly toward setting aside her intense memories so that she can get her life going again, but she can’t do it. Indeed, she doesn’t want to—letting go of her son would be, she feels, the same as losing him.
From the beginning, we’re cued that there’s something wrong, either with Telly’s memory or with the fabric of reality around her. The first signs are minor—she remembers drinking coffee when, according to the shrink, she didn’t have a cup, or she thinks she parked her car on one side of the street when it’s on the other. But one night, she’s startled to find the image of her son missing from a family photo. Soon all her photo albums are empty and her videotapes are blank, and her husband is claiming that they never had a son.
Up to this point, The Forgotten seems like it might be one of those psychological creepers in the vein of Gaslight, in which somebody is messing with the poor heroine’s head.
But before long Telly finds the past she remembers evaporating, not just from the memories of the people she knows, but from the physical records. Even the newspaper accounts of the plane crash seem to have vanished from library.
In desperation, Telly turns to an alcoholic ex-hockey player (Dominic West), who she remembers losing his daughter in the same accident. At first he assumes she’s nuts, but when he thinks about it a bit, he does seem to remember something about having had a daughter awhile back.
At this point, federal agents start pursuing the two of them, and we begin to suspect that we’re into something more epic than some sordid domestic conspiracy.
When she has the right role (in Safe, for instance) Julianne Moore can be a fine actress, maybe even a great one. Telly is not such a role, certainly, but it does allow Moore to do two things she excels at: look exquisite, and suffer exquisitely.
She’s quite touching, and she’s surrounded by about as first-rate a cast as you could find in the multiplexes these days.
Along with West, Sinise and Edwards, there’s Linus Roache as a mystery man, and an undebatably great actress, Alfre Woodard, wasted again in a nothing role as the diligent cop on the case.
The director is that appallingly underrated artisan Joseph Ruben, who helmed such gripping thrillers as The Stepfather and True Believer, and who even gave duds like Sleeping With the Enemy more class than they deserved.
His work on The Forgotten is likewise polished—unnerving god’s-eye views of New York, and crisp, unfussy action scenes, and a few real jolts.
But as I watched all this talent and craft artfully building toward the Big Revelation, the thought that kept coming to me was, “This had better be good,” along with the glum awareness that it was very unlikely that screenwriter Gerald Di Pego had come up with a twist that could justify all these tears and all this rushing around.
And indeed, when we finally get our explanation, it’s crushingly banal and vague, with none of the lucidity and elegance of, to use the most obvious example, The Sixth Sense.
Sad to say, The Forgotten is far too aptly titled—it is, in all probability, the category in which this film will soon find itself.