The Forgotten is filled with scenes of shattered glass. So it’s fitting to say this wannabe thriller fatally injures itself by rolling around in the shards of its obvious, lumbering plot.
In a year filled with bad thrillers, this is easily the worst. It’s as much an unforgivable grab at a paycheck for Julianne Moore and Gary Sinise as April’s equally abominable Godsend was for Robert De Niro.
The unfavorable comparisons of these two films go beyond greedy stars. Both blend child jeopardy with science-fiction, neither to a convincingly chilly degree. Of the two, The Forgotten invites the louder laugh track.
Moore stars as Telly Paretta (the names are almost as stupidly laughable as the story), a mother still grieving the loss of her 9-year-old son Sam in a plane crash more than a year earlier.
But after verbally attacking husband Jim (Anthony Edwards) for erasing her videotapes and emptying her scrapbooks of Sam, Telly is told her son is a construct of her imagination.
The news comes from her therapist, Dr. Munce (Sinise), who says she’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from a long-ago miscarriage. Years of memories tell Telly different, and she embarks on a search for the truth along with alcohol-addled Ash Correll (Dominic West), another parent whose daughter seems to have died in the plane crash.
The Forgotten coasts only so far on the chilly mood created by the du-jour disorientation of a handheld camera and mournful violin swells. It doesn’t take long for director Joseph Ruben and writer Gerald Di Pego to tip their hands and knock the movie over in the process.
It flirts with notions that would, in better films, become interesting ideas. It toys with negative commentary on an over-reliance on suggestive psychology. That would have required more use of Sinise, who the film wouldn’t know what to do with even if he was trying to earn his pay. As it stands, Dr. Munce is a seemingly insignificant character played by a too-recognizable actor to be insignificant.
The movie would have fared better with a more humanized villain. What passes for subtlety here is not using a certain word that could be used to easily describe the bad guys.
Close attention to one of the film’s many car accidents is a big tip-off, and the big reveal is absurdly handled. The film’s use of sucking characters up into the sky is a good metaphor for what the film does to the talent of the actors playing them.
The Forgotten may not be a solid thriller, but it is sturdy proof that Moore has no taste when it comes to big-studio projects. Earlier this year, she starred in Laws of Attraction, a romantic comedy that was neither of the two. Here, she goes overboard on the whiny crying jags that threaten to ruin even the best of her artier works.
West, so good as tortured cop Jimmy McNulty on the HBO series The Wire, is the only good thing going in The Forgotten. No modern actor plays drunken drama better than West, and the moment when he remembers his deceased daughter is one of the film’s few emotionally honest bits.
“I need you to forget,” screams the chief evildoer to a cowering Moore in the film’s climax. When The Forgotten is over, his advice — quite thankfully — isn’t so hard to heed.