One of the current stars most savvy about her constituency, Sandra Bullock ventures into supernatural suspense with too much demographically targeted care in "Premonition."
One of the current stars most savvy about her constituency, Sandra Bullock ventures into supernatural suspense with too much demographically targeted care in “Premonition.” Very redolent of “The Sixth Sense,” “Memento” and other bendings of time/reality into contrived puzzles, this slick exercise about a housewife whose spouse might or might not be dead is effective until a downright maudlin close, as if chicks might not withstand a horror pic (which PG-13 tale barely qualifies as) sans sniffling embrace of family values. Nonetheless, combined Bullock and genre lure should propel strong mid-level B.O.
First flashback sequence shows Jim Hanson (Julian McMahon) surprising wife Linda (Bullock) with a 1920s wood-frame house that — though she worries they can’t afford it — is now theirs. A decade later, Linda is a full-time housewife and mother of 10-year-old Bridgette (Courtney Taylor Burness) and 6-year-old Megan (Shyann McClure). All appears to be well, until a policeman visits Linda with news that Jim, who was on a business trip, died in a car accident the day before.
Traumatized, Linda recovers enough in the short term to prepare her girls for bad news once they’re home from school. She calls her own mother (Kate Nelligan) and best friend (Nia Long) over for comfort before finally curling up to sleep on a couch.
Linda wakes up in the morning in her bed. She goes downstairs — and discovers Jim routinely drinking coffee. Apparently, it was all a bad dream.
Only the “next” morning, Linda wakes up to find her husband is very much dead again — a wake taking place downstairs, mom and best friend presiding. Her protest, “He’s not dead,” is taken for grief-stricken mental instability.
Then comes the next morning, and the next. It’s not spoiling anything to reveal what Linda eventually discovers: Time has somehow become unstuck, and she’s experiencing the week of her husband’s fatal accident in randomly reshuffled “before” and “after” days. Tension centers on whether she can prevent Jim’s demise.
En route, we discover the Hansons’ marriage maybe wasn’t so perfect (though its flaws are poorly defined); that Jim was considering an extramarital affair (with Amber Valletta as a sexy coworker); and that time-warped Linda’s understandably confused responses to her post-Jim circumstances will have serious consequence for herself and her children.
“Premonition” owes everything to the school of chronology-and-reality-messing suspense. Bald imitation can have its charms — and this exercise is involving enough as long as Linda’s struggling to figure out what’s happened to her world.
A curious choice given his prior experience writing, producing, directing and acting in films of modest international repute, Turkish-German director Mennan Yapo’s English-language feature bow is glossily pro, but lacks assertive directorial personality. Stronger style and atmosphere would have greatly benefited a pic that seems to abandon its own supernatural aspects to sheer plot mechanism.
Nor is the always watchable Bullock up to limning more than the most feet-on-ground elements of a character whose possible insanity (or at least marital dissatisfaction) should be milked for as much ambiguity as possible. (Offering a master class in sustaining such tensions was Nicole Kidman as the good/bad mother in 2001’s “The Others.”)
As “Crash” proved, Bullock can do dislikable. Enigmatic complexity? Maybe not. Her straightforward playing renders simply off-key some of the script’s odder ideas, as when Linda realizes Jim was thinking about cheating on her, and her grief over his demise abruptly turns into something like grim satisfaction.
But where “Premonition” really stumbles is in the last reel, when Linda seeks comfort from a priest who suggests her problems are due to lack of (ever-so-vaguely, non-denominationally specified) “faith,” though there’s been no prior evidence she lacks it. Closing gush of family-values affirmation feels false in both emotive and plot-logic terms.
Supporting perfs, production and tech values are all polished if undistinguished. Pic was shot in Shreveport, La., though setting comes off as generic.