What would you do if you knew about events, life-and-death events, in advance of their occurrence? What could you do? Both “Premonition” and “The Gift” use a mother as the main character who sees the future, or more accurately, bits of the future, and neither one is very damn happy about it. Maybe they shouldn’t be, either.
“Premonition” is the latest effort from director Mannan Yapo who seems determined to replace M Night Shyamalan as the “surprise ironic twist” filmmaker. In his latest work, Sandra Bullock wakes up one morning to find her whole world changed, the result of a grisly tragedy. But her grieving period is cut short when she awakes the next day, and — Behold! — the tragic occurrence has not taken place. Yet. She is understandably confused and grows more so when, the day after, her reality is back to the one in which all around her suffer. Director Yapo loves his star and shoots endless close-ups of her with brows knit, concerned, or brows knit, bewildered, or brows knit, angry and frustrated. For me, Bullock is a distraction in her own film.
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Set in eerie Bayou Country, “The Gift” stars the always watchable Cate Blanchett as Annie Wilson, not the lead singer of Heart, but a compassionate, low-income mom troubled by her gift/curse of “second sight.” She barely ekes out a living for her and the kids by giving “readings” and so is plunged into a nightmare world of gruesome murder that hits closer and closer to home. Like Bullock in “Premonition,” Katie Holmes is also a distraction here, playing a femme fatale extravagant (major topless scene), in an obviously desperate attempt to shed her wholesome image. Keanu Reeves, meanwhile, feels miscast as a downhome boy with a good heart and a roving eye. He is earnest, but we don’t believe for a second his Bayou roots. And it’s too bad, because this film boasts an incredible cast that includes Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank, Gary Cole, Rosemary Harris, and the irreplaceable late Michael Jeter. Imagine what Hitchcock or J. Lee Thompson could have done with all this.
As is expected, the production values in both films, photography, editing, sound effects, score, are first-rate. But so what? They are in every movie nowadays. It all comes down to which film is more fun to watch. The real question about “Premonition” is what does it intend to be? Is this a suburban thriller or, as implied near the end, a Catholic cautionary tale on the consequences of faithlessness? By the time we reach this point, we don’t care. We just want out. The Gift,” on the other hand, suffered from Sam Raimi’s always aloof and cold direction, making it hard for us to sympathize with the plights of his characters. Truly, as far as directors go, both Yapo and Raimi took detours they never got back from.
In our leading lady Smackdown, Blanchett makes you truly feel for her character’s situation, something that Sandra Bullock is unable to pull off. On the contrary, I wondered whether her whole lovable, regular-girl persona is just a thin cover for the real Bullock, perhaps more akin to the character she portrayed in “Crash.”
Let’s see. I’m looking into the future now, I think I see the decision taking shape…
“Premonition” is so self-righteous and heavy-handed that the result is about as amusing and entertaining as reading a tract on the dangers of sin. Its scary premise is overdone and overblown, until we’re snickering at the melodramatic goings-on.
Even though, at times, “The Gift” is unintentionally hilarious, it still compels the viewer watching its top-notch cast emote the claptrap co-writers Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson dreamed up for them. “Premonition” isn’t long for the theaters anyway, rent “The Gift,” settle back and pop up some corn.