Premonition (review)

Deja Vu All Over Again

You know those “In a world where…” movie trailers? Well, Premonition’s would start out: “In a world where no one has ever seen Groundhog Day…” It’s not that unusual that characters in a film seem to be unaware of pop culture — no one in movies seems to spend any time engaging in that great American pastime of watching TV — but Premonition does that one better: it assumes the audience has never seen Groundhog Day, or any of the myriad other similarly themed explorations of this precise idea.
This may be a kind of self-defense mechanism: I would bet good money that this was a rejected concept for an episode of Medium — one of the best shows on TV at the moment, about a woman who juggles work, family, and being a psychic who dreams of violent crimes and tries to stop them and/or solve them after the fact — and so everyone involved in producing Premonition may be engaging in wishful thinking. “Maybe,” they’re hoping, pretty please, fingers crossed, “if we pretend hard enough, and aim our little movie at people who don’t go to movies and don’t watch TV, no one will notice how desperately unoriginal all of this is.”

Aiming a movie at people who don’t consume media seems like a chancy proposition, but what do I know? Or maybe it’s that Sandra Bullock fans aren’t the pickiest lot to start with, so they won’t care that they could see this all done way better every week for free at home, even if it meant having to watch Patricia Arquette instead.

What happens is this: Sandra (Infamous, Crash), an intensely retro housewife who has nothing in her life but her husband, kids, the laundry, and dusting, gets word that said hubby has been killed in a car wreck while on a business trip. And the shock of that news so discombobulates her that she becomes disconnected in time and spontaneously finds herself hopping around the week of his death, living it out of sequence: you know, she awakens one day and it’s Wednesday, then the next day it’s the previous Sunday, then the next is the following Friday, and so on.

Actually, that’s probably giving this intensely preposterous flick more credit than it deserves — it does not appear to have awareness of any psychology more complex than that of a greeting card. (“Every day we’re alive can be a miracle,” one character actually says.) There’s very little complex about Premonition, in fact: forget movies and TV, no one here seems to have ever heard of the concept of ESP before, either. So more than half the interminable running time — 97 minutes that feels like three hours — is spent with Sandra completely unaware of the fact that something supernatural might be at work, that she’s having visions of the future and might be able to change things. The audience — most of us, anyway — are so far ahead of her in figuring out what the heck is going on that she never catches up to us. But the movie is relentless in its cluelessness, in assuming that it exists in a pop-culture vacuum, and while we’re waiting for Sandra to finally figure out the very, very obvious, the script, by Bill Kelly, so overexplains everything about this “new” time-travel/ESP idea that it digs itself into holes it can never get out of. Do the events that Sandra experiences happen according to her out-of-order sense of time, or are they happening according on an ordinary schedule? If Sandra does something on Thursday and then, on her “next” day, three days earlier, does something that alters the future, will it still be in play when she eventually arrives at Friday? Or does the first version of Thursday count? Premonition hasn’t even considered itself this shallowly, and has no answer for itself, or for us, and tries to have it both ways: Yes, of course people remember Thursday on Friday; no, wait, they don’t.

If I could wake up tomorrow and find it’s the day before I wasted a precious miracle day on Premonition, I’d do everything I could to stop myself making the same mistake twice.

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