My Rating: 2/5
Reminiscence is a 2021 American science fiction thriller film written and directed by Lisa Joy, in her feature directorial debut.
When it was first announced that Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy would be making her feature debut with another cerebral sci-fi tale starring Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson, there was understandably quite a lot of excitement. But after the release of a single theatrical trailer and a couple of TV spots, buzz began to die down, and it was difficult to escape the feeling that Warner Bros. never seemed fully committed to a proper promotional campaign.
Unfortunately, that now seems like a fairly safe assumption, because Reminiscence is not very good… at all.
The story takes place in a futuristic version of Miami, struggling to rebuild after a war (details are vague) while sinking beneath the rising ocean. Jackman plays a former solider named Nick Bannister who now works as a P.I. of sorts along with his partner Watts (Thandiwe Newton). Together, they utilize a technology that allows people to retrieve and relive any memories they wish – for a price.
When the beautiful and mysterious Mae (Ferguson) walks in and asks them to find her keys (as you do), Bannister is instantly smitten, but when she disappears without a trace, he becomes obsessed with finding out why and spirals dangerously close to self-destruction.
Reminiscence is clearly aiming for a classic, noir-style vibe with a sci-fi twist, but it misfires/miscalculates at almost every turn. Everything from the set-design to the dreadful dialogue to the bizarrely upbeat score serve to conjure entirely the wrong atmosphere, and the movie ends up coming across more like a Sam Spade spoof (think Steve Martin’s ’80s noir parody Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid) than something akin to Blade Runner or Inception.
Some of the usual tropes associated with the genre are expected (even welcomed), but it’s all executed in such a hokey way that it’s impossible to take seriously. At one point, a passionate sex scene culminates with a shot of water overflowing in a sink (you get the idea).
The performances don’t help matters. The usually reliable Jackman starts off bland, before going completely in the other direction with a hilariously OTT array of snarls and grimaces (try to stifle a laugh when he attempts to bite a couple of goons intent on drowning him in a fishtank).
Ferguson is better, but finds herself stuck with a thankless, clichéd femme fatale role.
Newton is actually one of the film’s only saving graces, and you might find yourself wishing the hard-drinking Watts was the primary focus. The Westworld alum is still at the mercy of the script, but at least she’s having some fun with it.
And yet, Reminiscence is not a complete washout. There are some good ideas here, and although you’ll have to wade through 90 minutes of silliness to get there, the movie actually comes together in its final act and manages to pull off a pretty effective finale. It may even have packed an emotional punch… if we were at all invested in the characters.
Newton’s performance and a strong ending ensure Reminiscence is not an outright failure, but given the talent on display, Lisa Joy’s big-screen debut is a major disappointment, and will likely stick in your memory for all the wrong reasons.
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