The Forgotten
Director: Joseph Ruben. Cast: Julianne Moore, Dominic West, Linus Roache, Alfre Woodard, Gary Sinise, Anthony Edwards, Jessica Hecht, Ann Dowd. Screenplay: Gerald Di Pego.


Julianne Moore's famous red hair is impressively long and straight in The Forgotten, and it's an amazing sight to behold whenever the actress needs to sprint around the city, which is often. The movie could easily be titled Run Julianne Run, and though that does mean this is a fairly padded and sometimes artificially adrenalized picture—a film about a woman mourning her son rather peculiarly imagined as a series of chases and break-ins—the actress cuts a mean figure, which shouldn't be a surprise. Thrumming up a bravely silly premise with some forceful and dexterous acting choices, Moore is palpably haunted through the film, and yet you imagine this kind of work is fun for her, fluffy on the inside no matter how punchily professional her performance. The Forgotten is Julianne's version of The Ring, and though it lacks the bravura set-pieces or the contagious premise that made the earlier film such a hit, the basic appeal of both movies was about the same for me: watching a cerebral actress apply some welcome chops to a pulp mediocrity that literally allows her to let her hair down. (Naomi Watts herself was pretty excellently tousled in The Ring, now that I think about it.)

Yes, there is a plot in The Forgotten, and when I say "plot," I mean it in the way Scully and Mulder would have meant it. We aren't long into the movie before we learn that Julianne's deceased son has vanished from everyone's memory except her own. Even her husband (Anthony Edwards) claims the boy never existed, and though Julianne has made the bizarre error of hiring reptilian Gary Sinise as her shrink, she can't figure out why he, too, echoes what must be a vicious myth. The opening act of The Forgotten is like Gaslight extrapolated into a wider and more contemporary setting. It isn't just a shifty husband who might be purposefully driving his wife crazy (and why?), but an entire frigging community of neighbors, acquaintances, and strangers who seem to be in on the lie (but how?). Even the material world joins in the conspiracy, as the boy's image begins fading from photographs and mementos of his life seem to evaporate overnight.

Maybe it's a rule that a concept this good can't hold together for a full running-time, and as The Forgotten continues, it grows both more and less interesting. Its worst qualities, which aren't inconsiderable, are that the plot barely adds up and the movie's explanations, once revealed, are so broad that they don't just defy logic, they repudiate it altogether. If things are this crazy, you might think some other people might have noticed by now, and you might think the baddies behind the whole scheme would have bigger ideas than kidnapping a little blond kid with a backpack. Plus, a crucial special effects shot that's meant to draw the film toward its climax badly misses the mark, winding up somewhere near Whitesnake-video territory with its pixillated, blue-tinted vision of shattering glass. However, the best aspect of The Forgotten is how robustly and confidently it keeps barreling forward, literally crashing in on itself at two key moments, and blasting the plot sky-high at several others. Even if you're a doubting Thomas in the audience, wondering how classy actors like Julianne Moore, Linus Roache, and national treasure Alfre Woodard got wind of this cheese, the film calls your bluff by nailing you to your seat every now and then, amply reminding us who's really in charge. The production design might rank as the year's most patently ridiculous, beginning with an apartment for Julianne that recalls that old catalogue of Gothic-funereal home décor that Cher used to peddle on TV. The photography, however, has some verve, and it keeps resorting to delirious overhead angles that seem totally unwarranted until the movie draws out their logic. Wait, I just said logic. Well, what the hell. The Forgotten probably will be forgotten in a matter of weeks, but it boils and bubbles enough in its 89 minutes of fame to make the passing moments more than pleasurable. With would-be thrillers like The Village solemnly crafting scenarios that are no less risible than this one, and then asking us to read deep meanings into them, it's a kick to see a movie that literally throws decorum to the wind (and still gets a PG-13 rating, at that). In the Joseph Ruben auteurist tradition of flame-haired actresses on the lam, The Forgotten is at least as good as Sleeping with the Enemy, and if you enjoyed that movie at the time without ever once recalling it in the last thirteen years, then this might be a flick for you. C+


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