Posted in Film

The Sandra Bullock Files #39: Premonition (2007)

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The Sandra Bullock Files is a series that looks at the films of Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock, all the way from her debut in 1987, to her two major 2018 releases, Ocean’s Eight and Bird Box.

Sandra’s career has had its ups and downs from the very beginning, but if she took two steps forward with Crash in 2005 and Infamous in 2006, she took a major step back in 2007 with the dreadful Premonition, easily one of the worst and most ridiculous movies she’s ever participated in. What was she thinking when she signed on for this one? There are a few decent moments in Premonition, including a conclusion that thankfully doesn’t give us the predictable feel-good ending, but mostly this is a laughable, absurd thriller that does nobody involved any favors.

Apparently Sandra was looking for something scary to do, something that called back to the classic work of Alfred Hitchcock. She didn’t want to do a horror film necessarily, but more of a psychological thriller. She said she was looking at a lot of projects in this genre, but as soon as she started flipping through the Premonition script, she was certain this was the one she wanted to make. It’s a shame because of all the genres Sandra has done really well, she has yet to make a successful “scary” movie. It’s a shame, too, because with a better script and director, Premonition could have at least been serviceable entertainment. The idea is sort of intriguing. But it needed a more talented group behind the scenes. In the end, Sandra is left with not much to work with here.

The film opens with Sandra going through the daily motions. She plays Linda, a mom of two. She drives her kids to school, takes a jog, does the laundry. It’s just like any other day. Then the doorbell rings, and she finds a police officer standing outside. “Your husband’s been in an accident,” he says. “He died at the scene.” She spends the rest of the day in mourning, like any person would do. Her mother comes to visit that night, and tells her she needs to start thinking about funeral arrangements. “I’m not ready for that yet, Mom,” she says. She wakes up the next day, comes downstairs, and, lo and behold, her husband Jim (a bored looking Julian McMahon) is alive and well! Huh? What happened? She assumes yesterday was all a dream. But then she wakes up the next morning to find that her husband’s dead again, and it’s time to attend the funeral. What? It turns out that Linda is waking up on a different random day of a seven-day week. Back and forth, over on this day and then over on that one. Will she be able to save her husband’s life?

This film goes wrong in so many ways. Its biggest problem is that it’s boring. Never do we really care about her husband, or if she’ll save him, or if she even wants to save him. His character is such a dullard it doesn’t even affect the viewer to a great extent when he’s mutilated in the big explosive ending. We never get to really know him, aside from the fact that he’s a decent father but has been cheating on Linda with another woman. “If I let Jim die, is that the same thing as killing him?” Linda says in one of the film’s few good moments, a line that also ended the ridiculous trailer released at the end of 2006. How much more interesting would that ending have been? If she knew her husband’s death was coming, and she sat back and did nothing to stop it? The ending of the movie is not a happily ever after by any means, but that would have been truly unexpected.

The film has so many funny moments that it almost works as a comedy. The first hilarious moment occurs when Linda is at the church to attend her husband’s funeral, when she has a momentary freak-out and runs over to the hearse, demanding she see her husband’s corpse. The two pallbearers accidentally drop the casket, allowing her husband’s severed head to go bouncing down the sidewalk. Sandra’s over-the-top theatrics make the scene funnier, and the complete non-reaction by Kate Nelligan (who plays her mother, Joanne) only adds to the fun. Let’s see, what else. There’s Linda’s oldest daughter running through the house and crashing through fake, unmistakable CGI glass. Or Linda telling her husband, on the last night he’s alive: “We’re running out of time!” Or Linda frantically writing out the days of the week on paper, trying to formulate in her head which days she’s lived through, and which ones she has yet to see. She surmises that Jim dies on Wednesday! So she writes Jim Dies, then puts three big lines underneath, to show that this is an important date! There are so many absurd moments in Premonition that it’s hard to keep track of them all.

The fault lies in the screenplay by Bill Kelly, which thinks it’s clever but has enough plot holes to run a steamroller through. (The most obvious of which is that on the day Linda finds out her husband has died, her oldest daughter has no cuts on her face, even though the incident where she crashes through the glass has already happened.) It also lies in the pedestrian, clichéd direction of a German director named Mennan Yapo, who made one movie before Premonition, and zero since. He doesn’t have the visual style, or the eye for detail, needed for the film’s intricate story. Imagine what someone like Darren Aronofsky or David Fincher could have done with this material.

Worst of all is that Yapo directs Sandra to one of her misguided performances ever. It’s the best and worst element of the movie: Sandra is in nearly every shot of the entire 96-minute movie, a designation not given since probably The Net, in 1995 (a much better Sandra thriller), and yet she looks completely lost here, and not in a good way. She claims in one of the behind-the-scenes interviews that Premonition was not her favorite acting experience, because as filming went on she became more and more confused as to where her character was emotionally in each scene she filmed. Think about it. The character wakes up on seven different days throughout the film, and Yapo shot the movie out of sequence. So Sandra, who probably worked every day of the film’s forty-five-day shoot, had to every morning piece together where her character was on that day, what she knew, and what she didn’t know. It had to be exhausting; two months of that must have been torture. What did Yapo say when Sandra shouted in annoyance that she was losing her mind? “It’s good! It’s the character!” Apparently Yapo’s directing strategy was to make Sandra the person go insane, to make the character on screen look like she’s going insane. Actually, Sandra doesn’t look insane at all in the movie. Aside from a couple of effective moments — Linda walking downstairs to see everyone dressed for the funeral and telling her mom, “Something is really, really wrong” — she typically looks vaguely distant, like she’s thinking about when she’ll be done filming the damn movie so she can go home.

Sandra’s exciting on screen when she’s fired up to be there, appearing in a story that moves her, and playing a character that challenges her — think The Blind Side or Gravity — but unfortunately Premonition includes one of Sandra’s weakest characters and dramatic performances of her career post-Speed.

Best Scene: Sandra witnesses her husband’s explosive demise.

Best Line: “Something is really fucked up about this situation!”

Fun Facts

It was Sandra’s idea to have Linda pregnant in the final scene of the film.

This was not a remake of the 2004 Japanese horror film of the same name.

The original script was to have Linda save Jim, but that seemed too “Hollywood,” so they ended up making it more dark.

Despite the negative reviews, Premonition was a mild box office success, making $84 million worldwide on a budget of only $20 million.

Although they play mother and daughter in this movie, Kate Nelligan is only thirteen years older than Sandra.

Sandra said she wanted to do a Hitchcock-ian film. There actually was an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents called “Premonition,” starring John Forsythe and Cloris Leachman.

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