Massawyrm will never forget REMEMBER ME, primarily because it has one of the worst endings in modern cinema history!
Published at: March 9, 2010, 7:14 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
There are some unspeakably bad endings to films out there; some truly stunning what the fuck moments that to this day baffle audiences with their audacity. And then there is REMEMBER ME. REMEMBER ME is a film that will not go down in history as a well-constructed love story or a deeply affecting personal drama. Rather, it is a film that will go down in history for having one of the worst, most ill-conceived, contentious - and potentially offensive – endings of all time. It is an idea so bad that it boggles the mind.
Up until the last two or three minutes of this film, I felt no ill will towards it. It was simply a run of the mill, New York flavored indie starring a pair of up-and-coming (and somewhat overly maligned) actors, backed up by a bevy of underused, powerhouse actors serving as the primary sources of frustration for our angsty 21 year old couple. There was certainly plenty to like here, but nothing to write home about save two particularly wonderful moments towards the very end of the film. Robert Pattinson is Tyler, a 21 year old, shiftless rich kid with daddy issues who spends his days coming to grip with the hero worship he has for his deceased older brother. Emile de Ravin (who most of you know best as Claire from LOST) is Ally, the daughter of a NYC cop still reeling from the murder of his wife some ten years earlier – a murder Ally witnessed.
Pattinson’s Tyler is needlessly nihilistic. Even when all the cards are laid on the table and you understand what his deal is, you still kind of look sideways at him and want to say “Dude, you are really doing a pisspoor job dealing with your shit.” But he’s 21, angry and it’s not entirely unrealistic. I’ve known douchier 21 year olds who have had half the problems Tyler does, so I bought it. When Tyler inexplicably intervenes in a fight between street thugs, he mouths off to a cop who decides not to take this richboy’s shit and puts his head into a windshield. That cop is Ally’s dad. You see where this is going? Guess who decides to date Daddy’s little girl for a possible revenge bang? But then, predictably, they fall for each other.
While the setup was a little too SHE’S ALL THAT for my liking, director Allen Coulter (HOLLYWOODLAND) handles the relationship very well and makes a believable, summer fling out of it, with each character both equally damaged and nurturing, giving the relationship a relatively authentic feel – despite the obvious contrivances headed their way. Fortunately, the film has an equally interesting subplot involving Tyler’s little sister (in a wonderful turn by young actress Ruby Jerins, easily one of the best things this film has going for it), who as it turns out is quite gifted. Enter even more daddy issues.
But just as it seems as if the movie has nothing else to do or say, it comes to an interesting climax that brings about some really solid resolution and two great character moments involving Pattinson and his father (played by Pierce Brosnan). One of the things that will bug some folks about this film is that while Tyler is a stand up family man, he is little else beyond that. He’s really got nothing going for him character-wise. But watching the film call him on that a couple of times – especially in one explosively uncomfortable scene – makes for some pretty compelling viewing. Had the film been much more about this aspect rather than dumping piles and piles of Daddy issues onto the audience (and really, I’m not exaggerating here, it is what the main thrust of this film is entirely about) this could have stood as a potent, if forgettable drama.
But then comes the ending.
Those of you that don’t want to be spoiled need to leave now.
Seriously. While I am typically the guy who tries to avoid discussing spoilers, in this case I am making a *huge* exception. It is not enough to call the ending of this film terrible, audacious or worst in modern history. It must be explained, it must be discussed and if you really don’t want to know, by all means, please, bookmark this page and come back after you’ve seen it. There’s a good chance you’ll want to. Final warning.
Many of you have already heard about this ending; some are just reading to confirm that it is in fact the ending you’ve been hearing so much about. Yes. It is that ending. Just as Tyler gets a precious glimpse into the mind of his father and feels, for the first time, as if he understands him, his father’s secretary asks “How old would your brother be?” “28. He died May 20th, 1995. You should know that.” Throughout the film it is mentioned that his brother died at the age of 22. Just as you begin doing the mental math, plugging six years into that equation and realizing that they just celebrated Labor Day – we cut back to Tyler’s little sister in her classroom. The teacher steps out from in front of the chalkboard. It reads September 11, 2001. Back to Tyler who steps over to the window and looks out over the city. Gosh he’s high above it. Now we’re outside looking in. The building is unmistakable. We pull back and see its twin framed behind it.
All this time the film has failed to mention that Tyler’s dad works in the World Trade Center. Now I’ve been told that other prints showing around the country set up the date of the film as taking place in 2001 on a title card towards the beginning – some press materials are including this as well. Our print apparently didn’t have it. No one I spoke too saw a date. But twist or not, surprise or not, my response is the same. This ending is cheap, low and despicable. It’s bad enough when a love story aims to rob the audience of a happy ending through an easy but tragic twist of fate accident like being run over by a bus or struck with brain cancer or some such horrible thing; but when you invoke the single most profound, horrifying, culture changing event of the modern era, you best have something powerful to say about it.
Instead, this film serves only to remind you.
Why was it titled REMEMBER ME? Because NEVER FORGET would have been too obvious. If the film has something to say in terms of metaphor, it is muddled, weak and confused. You can draw a number of interesting comparisons, but none of them are solidly communicated as if they were intentional. Instead it gives us the mother of all bad endings as our protagonist has finally gotten all of his shit worked out, only to find himself about to be caught up in a world changing event – 9/11’s own Dante “I’m not even supposed to be here today” Hicks. Do we see the planes hit or how he dies? No. The movie is over once we get the reveal. There’s a brief, saccharine slo-mo montage of people running in the streets and the moment each major character realizes something is wrong, followed immediately by even briefer scenes of mourning. But that’s it. We have watched an entire film build to a crescendo that our protagonist is only tangentially involved in.
It is a romantic film that wants to hit you with the one-two punch of love unfulfilled and OMG 9/11. It is tasteless pandering to the very lowest common denominator – meant to elicit emotions not by creating endearing characters we will mourn the loss of, but rather by reopening old wounds and pouring salt into them. Tyler is a nearly worthless character who is on his way to becoming a good man. Too bad for that whole plane thing, huh? In the end, it turns out to be a film populated by characters that desperately need to move on from the tragedies that turned them into the wrecks they are, that serves to remind us instead that we shouldn’t forget the tragedy that turned this country into the wreck that it is. It is a film that comes dangerously close to endorsing a victim mentality rather than promoting one of healing and growth. And while I’m sure that’s not what the film’s intent was, it sure as hell comes across as what it is saying.
Now, I am certain that this was done with the very best of intentions; a lot of incredibly stupid things are done with the best of intentions. But their attempt to remind us of that terrible day while putting a human face on the tragedy is misguided and frustrating to say the least. They took an otherwise watchable and entertaining story and gave it one of the most regrettably awful endings in modern cinema history. I have no doubt that Pattinson’s young fanbase will adore this. With little attachment to the tragedy (as most of them weren’t old enough to understand it or even process what a pre-9/11 world was like) and plenty of scenes of Pattinson brooding that seem to skirt the shores of fan service at times, they will find this an enlightening, humanizing work that exposes them to something they only know about second hand. But for the rest of us, well, more than a few of you will find this as pandering as I did.
Let me be clear: I’m not offended by this in the way that I feel that they are capitalizing upon a tragedy. As far as I’m concerned, that teat has been suckled more times than I like to think about. Politics, religion, finance, Country music – there’s hardly a sector of industry that hasn’t found a way to squeeze a nickel out of the WTC. My problem isn’t that they exploit 9/11; it is how cheaply and crassly they exploit it. Much like its protagonist, it wants terribly to be deep, but never has anything interesting to say.
Until next time friends,