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Passion of Mind   D+

Paramount Classics

Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Alain Berliner
Writers: Ron Bass, David Field
Cast: Demi Moore, Stellan Skarsgård, William Fichtner, Sinead Cusack, Peter Riegert.

Review by Jeremiah Kipp

I don't read romance novels. Never had much use for 'em. A beautiful, forlorn woman has it all...a nice house, beautiful children (or horses, which substitute for children sometimes) and handsome, successful men falling at her feet. What to do? What to do? Should she choose Pierre, the robust gardener who is also a brilliant sculptor -- or Roderic the debonair playboy? Furthermore, who will mind the children/horses if she carries on a torrid affair? How will she live? What will she do? What will she do?

Passion of Mind is along the same lines, only with a dash of fantasy. A woman (Demi Moore) in the prime of her life drifts between two lives. She wakes up in the morning as Marie, a widow in Province with two lovely children. She's an earth mother whose home is filled with natural colors and overlooks trees and lakes.

When she falls asleep at night, she awakens in another life as Marty, a successful career girl with no husband or kids. Marty has her own literary agency, success, a stylish New York apartment which no one could possibly afford. She has everything but love, y'see. When she goes to bed at night, she dreams of Marie.

Marie and Marty dream of each other. Is one existing in the real world while another is just a dream, and if so which is real?

Naturally, they both fall in love with the perfect guy and she feels guilt over sleeping with the love of her life in the "dream world," whichever that is. Suddenly, items from the "dream world" start appearing in the "real world" on both sides. Poor Marie/Marty. What can she do? What can she do?

The idea of moving between worlds is a potentially fascinating one. A small film called Julia and Julia had Kathleen Turner going back and forth into alternate realities -- a mother whose child passed away is allowed to see a future with that child still alive. One can imagine the possibilities of not wanting to go back to another life when you've found personal bliss in the fantasy.

The fundamental problem with Passion of Mind is that there's never really anything at stake for Marie/Marty -- they're in no danger, they have lives which the average human being could never touch, and they've found the perfect guy. If anything, she's better off because she's got two lives for the price of one.

Passion of Mind was utterly boring to me, perhaps for many of the same reasons romance novels feel straight out of dullsville. I'm completely uninterested in better homes and gardens or beautiful people and their fabulous jobs. Also, casting Demi Moore was a mistake, since whether she's playing an earth mother or a businesswoman, she behaves just like Demi Moore.

That breathy voice, that pretty yet empty face, the curves of her body -- what you see is what you get, and that's all you get. One is left to imagine what another actress might have done with the part, maybe Joan Allen -- an actress of startling depth forever typecast in the role of "the good wife." I could imagine Allen bringing subtly different shades to each side of Marie/Marty, which wouldn't have added conflict but might have made the film interesting in a "compare and contrast the lives" sort of way.

One thing the movie does have going for it are interesting, unlikely choices for Demi's love interests. No Bruce Willis here, folks.

The great Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård finally gets to play a robust sex symbol and not a dirty old bugger who drinks too much. He plays William, the writer who chases after earth mother Marie. He gets to be paternal with children, carnal under the sheets and even a little befuddled when trying to speak of matters of the heart. It's a far cry from the shark bait he played in Deep Blue Sea.

An even less predictable choice is William Fichtner as Aaron, a businessman who courts Marty. He's playing a decent, ordinary guy -- sensitive and, well, all around nice almost to a fault. Nice guys finish last, except in romance novels. Fichtner is best known for playing grimy thugs, or the scumbag cop in Go, or the quirky blind scientist in Contact. I don't think he's ever played a normal fella, but he's got a sort of young David Strathairn working everyman thing going on.

Fichtner and Skarsgård are both quite good, but they're stuck playing out long, boring scenes of tenderness and consolation as Marie/Marty drift from world to world.

Think Krzystof Kieszlowski as interpreted by Hollywood hack du jour, Ron Bass. Ron Bass, of course, is the Man Who Couldn't Stop Writing, having penned What Dreams May Come, Stepmom, Entrapment and Snow Falling on Ceders. He's a one-man factory of melodrama. Considering the number of screenplays he has written (six in 1999 alone), he was unable to cook up any real conflict in the Marty/Marie story, either individually or collectively.

There are too many scenes with Demi Moore having picnics or glasses of wine with her lovers, sitting on the rocks of Central Park or inside a cave illuminated by the setting sun, whispering sweet nothings or casting forlorn glances at one another. Call me a cynic, there's only so much bitten back lovey-dovey looks I can take before wishing Jay and Silent Bob would show up and start cracking obnoxious jokes. Something! Anything! I get the point. These people are in love. True, unadulterated, passionate love!

Review published 10.27.2000.

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