Screenplay gimmicks just a ruse in Premonition

A woman burns her hand on a stovetop, and halfway around the world, her twin sister feels the pain. A man has a dream that the plane he's scheduled to be on is going to crash, so he skips the flight, only to find out that it did, indeed, go down. A woman is informed that her husband has been killed in a car accident, but the next day he's alive and well. That last is the enigma at the heart of Premonition, a would-be brainteaser with no brains, a film that isn't half as interesting as one of those old commercials for Time Life Books' Mysteries of the Unknown series.

Sandra Bullock stars as Linda Hanson, stay-at-home mom of two girls, kinda happily married, and about to get the shock of her life: Her husband Jim (Julian McMahon) has been killed in a car accident. After the sheriff gives her the bad news, Linda floats through the rest of her day in a numb fog, finally succumbing to sleep. When she wakes up, her husband is still alive.

She pieces together that she has inexplicably woken up several days before his death. She floats through this day in a confused fog and goes to sleep wondering if it's all a dream. In the morning, she wakes to a house full of family and friends getting ready to go to the funeral of her again-dead husband.

And on and on and on. The plot unfolds linearly for Linda, as it does for the audience, but the chronological order of days is scrambled. Linda tries to understand what's happening to her, complicated by the discovery of little mysteries such as a dead crow in her backyard, the cut-and-stitched face of one of her daughters, and a bottle of lithium prescribed for her by a doctor she's never heard of.

Luckily for the audience, the days unfold with perfect, classic mystery-revelation timing. Apparently, this is meant to be meat enough for entertainment. Tiny riddles in Premonition do have solutions -- pointlessly mundane solutions and never mind how they don't hint at the larger question of why this is happening to Linda. No explanation is given that has any traction.

The chronological confusion is ultimately just a ruse to distract from the film's actual story, which, if told in order, would interest no one. The coup de grace from screenwriter Bill Kelly (Blast from the Past) is a genuinely putrid ending. The audience laughed in incredulity when the credits rolled following that.

The things that could save such a weak story conceit -- performance, direction, emotional connect -- don't: Bullock is fine but mostly just has to frown convincingly, while McMahon barely registers as a presence, dead or alive. Director Mennan Yapo ably uses the camera to suggest greater forces at work, but since the script doesn't produce the supernatural goods, the visuals serve as an irritant, retroactively. And the fertile emotional ground that could be harvested in such a story is left fallow. This is a movie that isn't about the process of grief so much as it is the process of screenwriting. Premonition should be taught at Hollywood industry seminars about how to turn a script with nothing to say into a greenlighted movie.

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