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Passion of Mind

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Passion of Mind

Starring: Demi Moore, Stellan Skarsgard
Director: Alain Berliner
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: May 2000
Genre: Romance

*Also starring: William Fichtner, Peter Riegert

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Some spokespersons for the feminist movement have promised that women could have it all. They could be hard-hitting top executives with corner suites on the upper floors of Manhattan skyscrapers and come home to loving husbands, kids, dogs and picket fences. Alas, in most cases, this was not to be. Women with MBAs who donned business suits felt guilty leaving their kids with nannies, and those who stayed home to take care of their loved ones felt they could have done a lot more with their lives. With a script by Ronald written a decade ago with that dilemma in mind, "Passion of Mind" gives the predicament a visual, metaphoric presentation, contrasting the life of a low-key book reviewer draped in casual threads living with her two daughters in the south of France with that of a high-power literary agent going about her fast-moving Manhattan business in smashing designer clothes. The kicker is that the two women are actually one and the same: yet another case of split personality disorder--investigated in a sluggish, cerebral story that never springs to life but which promises a payoff that the more prescient moviegoers could probably predict.

The premise designed to serve as a hook for the audience is the nature of dreams. As you read these words, how do you know you that you're not dreaming? You pinch yourself? This does not always work. Here is my solution: say to yourself, "Is this a dream?" Your mere ability to consider that concept will indicate to you that this is reality. Dreams may seem real enough when they are in progress, but that is only because you have not been able to ask yourself this simple question.

For Marty/Marie (Demi Moore), though, that technique does not work. When she falls asleep in France, she has visions of a separate life in New York, where she looks about the same and acts pretty much like her double in Provence, and even runs into the same problems in her romantic life. When she beds down in New York, she is soon back in France. And so it goes, day after day, night after night. In a sense she is not the hapless situation that director Alain Berliner might presume it to be. After all, how else can you enjoy the delights of both worlds even faster than you could travel from one to the other on the Concorde? Folks in the audience might be tempted to say, "Live with the problem. Lighten up and enjoy yourself--in both worlds. And don't worry too much about which is real."

In New York, Marty, the literary agent, is gradually falling for her accountant, the shy, even nerdy Aaron (William Fichtner), whose idea of romantic pursuit is to make dates to meet in Central Park on Sunday mornings. In Provence, the man who captures Marie's interest is William (Stellan Skarsgard), who takes an unusual interest in Marie's kids, so much so that you wonder whether he is feigning this attention to win his lady over. Marie's psychotherapist in France, Dr. Langer (Joss Ackland), is of little help, but her friend, Jessie (Sinead Cusack), advises her to give in to her longing for love. Meanwhile her New York therapist, Dr. Peters (Peter Riegert), strongly cautions Marty to keep her double life a secret from Aaron, lest Aaron bolt from a person with an all- consuming psychosis.

As a romance, the story displays nothing of the passion we'd expect from a woman who has been without a man for years. (Her husband in France had died two years earlier while in New York she seems to avoid dating altogether.) The thirty-seven year old Demi Moore just doesn't fit together with the older Stellan Skarsgard, who comes across as avuncular rather than appetitive. And no woman with any taste could fall for a guy like William Fichtner who sports an unusually scruffy beard, the hair pouring down to his neck without symmetry. For every woman needing a psychiatrist to resolve her duplicate life there's another who'd be sensible enough to enjoy doubling her pleasure--just like the twins in the old Doublemint gum commercials. Whether dreaming of New York of fantasizing Provence, Moore sleepwalks through this lethargic role in a film whose value lies principally in Eduardo Serra's picture-postcard shots of the Gold Triangle area of Gordes, Bonnieux and Lacoste in the Luberon valley of Provence.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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