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Passion of Mind (1999)
In Passion of Mind, Demi Moore lives two lives. When first we
see her, she is a single mother living in France and raising two daughters. But when she
falls asleep, she wakes up in New York, where she is a high-powered literary agent with no
children and no time for a private life. Her problem is, she doesn't know which life is
real and which is a dream. The audience's problem is, we don't care.
In France, Moore is Marie, a writer of book reviews for the New York Times. She hasn't dated since the death of her husband two years earlier. But now a man enters her life. William, played by Stellan Skarsgard (Time Code), is an author whose book Marie panned. For some reason, this provides the impetus for William's attraction to her. He also seems to get along well with her kids, and Marie's friend Jessie (Sinead Cusack) approves of him, but Marie is reluctant to commit because, well, he might not be real.
The man in her other life is Aaron (William Fichtner), an accountant for one of Marty's (as Moore is known in this reality) top clients. In both lives, Moore is seeing a psychiatrist. The one in France, a pipe-smoking Viennese caricature, helpfully points out, "Vun vorld is real...ze other a dream...you are riding two horses, and ze mind is not built to do zat without breaking apart." The American shrink is a more no-nonsense type who no doubt wonders (as do we) why, if Moore must lead two lives, at least one of them can't be interesting.
This pointless exercise in existential hogwash was co-written by Ron Bass and David Field. Bass is known for his assembly line approach to screenwriting and the big-budget formulaic product that implies (Stepmom, Entrapment). Passion of Mind must be Bass's idea of an arthouse film. All the characters speak in psychobabble about the central dilemma of the movie, which is a patently ludicrous conceit that no one on this planet has ever had to deal with. No one ever thinks to try some tough love with Marie/Marty; rather than, say, having her committed, they all simply coddle her delusion. Couldn't they at least attempt some sort of radical sleep deprivation therapy?
The film's events unfold with all the suspense and romance of a three day Carl Jung Symposium. It's hard to feel any connection with Marie/Marty, or to get a sense of anything being at stake in her romantic dilemma, since we know all along that at least one of her realities will turn out to be a construct. Neither William nor Aaron is given a life of his own to distinguish himself; both exist only to reflect on Moore's predicament and to occasionally insist that he - not the other guy - is the real deal.
Since nothing of interest is happening story-wise, our attention turns to other matters, such as the wildly overblown color scheme of the film. Director Alain Berliner previously directed Ma Vie en Rose, or My Life in Pink. This one should have been called My Lives in Blue. Every scene in the film is shot through with deep, rich shades of the color - azure walls, Navy blue shirts and jackets, indigo cars. Maybe there's a reason for this, but I can't help but think the director was as bored with the story as everyone else and had to find some way of occupying his time.
Marie/Marty's crisis resolves itself with one of those ostensibly mindblowing identity revelations that are becoming de rigeur in the wake of The Sixth Sense and Fight Club. Surely it's time for a moratorium to be placed on these "shock" endings, which grow more and more contrived even as they lose the power to surprise. Audiences are likely to greet this mumbo-jumbo with much eye-rolling - that is, if anyone's eyes are still open by the time it happens.
- Scott Von Doviak