Remember Me (2010) (PG-13) ★★½

Review Date: January 6th, 2011

With every non-Twilight role he chooses, Robert Pattinson seems determined to wipe from our minds the popular image of him as Edward Cullen, the sensitive, chivalrous teen vampire in the blockbuster adaptations of Mormon author Stephenie Meyers' young-adult novels. Last year, he played a decadent, bisexual Salvador Dali in Little Ashes, Paul Morrison's drama about the artist's formative years in Madrid; in his latest film, the romantic drama Remember Me, he smokes, drinks, has premarital sex, and engages in a variety of other unwholesome activities that would surely appall the saintly Edward.

And he isn't half bad, truth be told. Pattinson's turn as 21-year-old Tyler, a rebellious, resentful child of privilege who falls for Ally (Emilie de Ravin), the bright, pugnacious daughter of a cop (Chris Cooper) — the same cop who just days prior busted his face up — is easily the best part of Remember Me's otherwise mediocre ensemble piece. The film works perfectly well when director Allen Coulter concentrates on the romantic bond forged by its two troubled leads, but he has much higher aspirations — American Beauty-level aspirations — and he's ultimately sabotaged by his vaulting ambition, overloading the action with hair-trigger melodrama that leaves the film's cast in a permanent state of hackneyed hysterics.

How ambitious is Coulter, you ask? How about using the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks as a plot device? Remember Me is set in New York during the summer of 2001, a detail we quickly forget as we're immersed in Tyler and Ally's romance, their relationship — and the story, for that matter — constantly threatened by the familial dysfunction that surrounds them. But as the films speeds to its conclusion, the summer of 2001 yields to the fall of 2001, and the realization slowly dawns on us that yes, the movie is going there, and there's nothing we can do to stop the plot's overwrought locomotive, its narrative brakes having long ago failed, from reaching its fatally ill-chosen — and dramatically unnecessary — destination. rated this film 2 1/2 stars.