Fans of Hallmark-style melodramas might enjoy it
I've been pretty hungry for any and all new media since studios began cautiously releasing their big-ticket items, and the trailer for Reminiscence instantly caught my eye even more than other recent offerings. The film boasts a stellar cast, with the ageless Hugh Jackman and stunning Rebecca Ferguson taking on the title roles.The trailer gives off serious Inception vibes with a dash of Minority Report, and so going into it I was expecting heart-pounding excitement of the same caliber.
First-time director Lisa Joy went all-in with her freshman film, and I can tell that a lot of love, care and passion went into the creation of Reminiscence from start to finish. Still, what the trailer led me to believe was a sci-fi action thriller was really more of a sci-fi neo-noir melodrama - an odd combination to say the least.
I applaud Joy for taking a risk and trying to venture from the cookie-cutter movie machine to which we’ve all become accustomed, but I can’t help but think she bit off more than she could chew with this project. What begins as a futuristic, Christopher Nolan-esque take on an apocalyptic future quickly morphs into a sappy, 1940s-style noir that almost feels unintentionally campy at times. The visuals are undoubtedly stunning, but Joy appears to have struggled to pinpoint what, exactly, she wanted this film to be.
On paper, the plot sounds like a solid A+. Set in Miami in the distant future when climate change has left much of the city underwater, Nick (Jackman) and his assistant Emily (Thandiwe Newton) run a niche but apparently popular business that allows people to relive their favorite memories from before the world became a dystopian hellscape. Some people get hooked - becoming so addicted to the happy memories they become “daydream junkies'' of sorts. Protagonist Nick succumbs to that same fate when he falls for the sultry and stunning Mae (Ferguson) and eventually starts to unravel a conspiracy so convoluted yet bizarrely boring that I often found my mind wandering and struggled to focus on what was happening.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The film is narrated by Jackman, and his old-fashioned Carey Grant-esque style of speaking feels a bit comical and out of place at times. However, I will say that not a single cast member phoned it in, and Jackman and Ferguson had a solid amount of onscreen chemistry. It was a bit odd seeing Newton in a “sidekick” role, because I think of her more as a leading lady, but I’m sure her connection to the director (who wrote for Westworld) had a lot to do with her involvement in the movie.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Visually, Reminiscence is a home run. It’s the only aspect of the film where I can’t think of a single thing to critique, as it was the only thing that really held my focus. The sprawling, underwater landscape shots were disconcerting, yet beautiful. There were also a couple underwater sequences that were done exquisitely (water was a big theme in the film.) If I were to recommend this movie to anyone, it would definitely be for the visual aspects alone.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Much like the plot and direction, the musical scoring didn’t seem sure about what it wanted to be - ranging from modern day orchestral to black-and-white, old-timey jazz pieces. The music certainly fits in the scene in which it is featured, but since the genre of the film feels so disjointed, the musical choices do as well.
Part sci-fi, part drama, part romance, and part thriller; Reminiscence dabbles in so many genres yet fails to fully commit to any of them. The aesthetic appeal of the film is strong and deserves praise, but sappy dialogue and a plot that drags makes the movie feel much longer than its two-hour runtime. Fans of Hallmark-style melodramas might enjoy it, but Reminiscence is one trip down memory lane that I won’t be revisiting anytime soon.