Look, screenwriters, I get it. Your job is to sit around all day in your dirty bathrobes coming up with hackneyed premises to temporarily distract our stupid faces. Fair enough. Everyone has to put dirty food on their dirty families. But once you come up with the mind-blowing idea (“what if there was a dude who woke up one morning and discovered that everything he thought he knew was different”) then you have to put in the work to tie it all together! It can’t always just turn out that the explanation for all of the twists and turns was aliens for no good reason other than that aliens is the only way to “logically” allow you to write this nonsense. OH, BTW, SPOILER ALERT.
As the movie begins, Julianne Moore, America’s premiere Woman In Histrionic Distress is grieving over a son who died in a plane crash 14 months earlier. She’s too depressed to work or even go out to a nice dinner with her husband. Every day, she goes into her dead son’s room and looks at a photo album, and watches vaguely creepy VHS tapes of him playing at the park. But then one day she goes to look at the photo album and all the photos of him are gone, and all the creepy VHS tapes are now even more creepily blank. She accuses her husband of trying to erase their son, and threatens to leave him, so he calls her therapist, Gary Sinise, and asks him to come over and help settle Julianne Moore. The two men explain to her that she never had a son, and that there were never any photos, but rather that she lost a baby in a miscarriage and went on to fabricate nine years worth of memories. This would also explain some of her recent mental lapses, like where she parked her red Volvo, and whether or not she just drank a cup of coffee. Unconvinced, Julianne Moore goes to a playground in the middle of the night because that’s something adults do, and she finds McNulty there, who is drunk and tries to fuck her. McNulty, she claims, was the father of one of her son’s friends. But McNulty claims that he never had a child. She goes to the library to find the articles about her son’s plane crash, but all the articles have disappeared. How is that possible?! Not knowing where to turn, she goes to McNulty’s Dumbo loft and tries to convince him that they both had kids and that she is not crazy but he is like “you absolutely are crazy, and I’m going to sleep because I’m comically drunk to the point of not minding having a stranger in my house at all hours of the night.” While he sleeps, Julianne Moore discovers (through criminal vandalism) that underneath his office wallpaper the walls are covered in child’s drawings!
He did have a child! She makes him say the name Lauren, and then this bullshit happens:
You know how it is. You start to remember things and it’s like “gasp! Memories! Gasp gasp gasp!” Acting! Also, Bunny!
Anyway, now they are in an hour-long chase scene, as things get more and more complicated. How can Julianne Moore be crazy if both she and McNulty remember having children? Everyone is after them. The NSA is after them for some reason. And also a weird dude who may or may not be indestructable. LOOK OUT!
Julianne Moore goes to her husband to try and make him have a memorygasm but her husband doesn’t know who she is anymore! What is happening around here? She and McNulty catch an NSA agent and are like “what is happening around her?” and he is like “I can’t tell you, they’re listening,” and they’re like “who’s listening?” and suddenly BOOM, he basically Jumpers into the sky along with the whole log cabin. Yikes. Total security deposit nightmare. Now they are back in New York, going through the old files of the airline that crashed their children and is now out of business. Now they are on Long Island, breaking and entering into an empty house. But oh no, here is the weird guy again, and he is impervious to the sassy black lady cop’s bullets! Then the sassy black lady cop gets Jumpered into the sky.
Julianne Moore and McNutly get separated, but first agree to meet back at his Dumbo loft but oh no, the impervious weirdo guy is there and he jumps through the window with McNulty and McNulty gets Jumpered into the sky. And now Gary Sinise is like “I knew about the aliens all along, I was just trying to minimize the damage through overpriced one-hour biweekly therapy sessions.” The alien is like “the experiment was never about the children, it was about a mother’s bond to a child.” Uh. Sounds like a really IMPORTANT experiment? Anyway, they have a memory face-off but Julianne Moore remembers…more? And the alien gets Jumpered into the sky because the experiment “failed” because he couldn’t make Julianne Moore The Forgotten enough and so he is in trouble with, like, the Alien Board of Science? And she goes back to her house but obviously her husband doesn’t remember her and there’s no one there. So she goes to the park and starts screaming her son’s name, and for some reason none of the other parents seem even remotely concerned about this visibly insane woman’s proximity to their children. But then it turns out that her son is on the jungle gym? (How did she know that? It seems a bit unreasonable to just assume that the aliens would return your son directly to the jungle gym no questions asked.) Also McNulty is there but he doesn’t remember her, but probably they’ll get married now because LOVE IS THE FINAL FRONTIER.
Things get pretty tense there for awhile:
Tense is a synonym for retarded, right? Right.
No matter what you think of this movie, you have to admit that Julianne Moore’s face is just a pleasure to look at for an hour and a half. It’s basically sunshine personified:
Anyway, The Forgotten is a terrible movie in hilarious ways, but it’s really only super terrible and super hilarious in the last 15 minutes. The rest of it is relatively engaging, and when it does completely come unglued, you’re not disappointed, because you kind of saw that coming. In the first 15 minutes of the movie I actually made a joke about how it was going to end up being aliens, and then, whoops, it ended up being aliens. That’s the thing about coming up with impossible scenarios: the only way to end them is almost definitely going to be unsatisfying. And the ending of The Forgotten is deeply unsatisfying. For one thing, the aliens don’t know anything about science! Like, why does the one alien get in trouble for his experiment failing just because it didn’t get the result he had expected? That’s not a failed experiment, that’s a successful experiment that disproves your hypothesis. Silly aliens.
But once you start down that road, where does it end, you know? Like, why go to all the trouble of making Julianne Moore forget where she parked her car? Is that part of it? Is where she parked her car an offshoot of the mother-child bond? And one begins to get the sense that if aliens have the technology to Jumper everyone and erase newspaper articles and change who appears in photographs
(guess what, aliens, we have Photoshop too!) then surely they could have, for example, erased the child’s drawings on McNulty’s wall rather than just wallpapering over them? And they could have erased everything in Julianne’s Moore’s son’s room altogether rather than being really inconsistent about whether or not to leave her so many keepsakes? CRACKS IN THE OTHERWISE SUPER SOLID FOUNDATION OF THIS TOWERING MASTERPIECE!
To be fair, though, I kind of enjoyed it. And I LOL’ed really hard when Julianne Moore said that there was nothing worse than forgetting. I mean, I get it. She had to say that. But it’s not even remotely true. Just ask these guys:
It’s no Dreamcatcher, but it’s almost Dreamcatcher. A modest-growth, low-risk addition to any LOLk portfolio.