The Forgotten
dir. Joseph Ruben
Opens Fri Sept 24.

In the '70s, it was corporate and governmental conspiracies being discovered by unlikely heroes. In the '80s, we saw men having sex with crazy, murderous women, only to be saved by their sainted wives. The '90s were dominated by sinister father figures. And up to now, the mainstream thrillers of the '00s have been dominated by a theme with slightly more existential resonance: the failure, and/or manipulation of memory. It's hard to make the case that these films--typically big studio productions designed to resemble gothic horror stories and appeal to the suburban paranoia that infects the middle class like a rash--actually tell us very much about the times we live in, because after a year or two, all these movies just seem like crass, manipulative, Zeitgeist-baiting trash designed to follow the formula of the godhead, Fatal Attraction. They do indicate at least one thing: that audiences can be conned into seeing any old formulaic crap, so long as it has a good enough trailer.

All this throat clearing is just a prelude to the good news, which is that The Forgotten is a surprisingly strong mainstream thriller, with twists that are both implausible and utterly credible, thanks especially to the open-wound vulnerability of the great Julianne Moore. She plays a bereaved mother who suddenly begins to suspect that everyone around her--shrink, husband, neighbor--is part of a conspiracy to make her believe her dead son never existed. Because this is a thriller, she's right, of course, but in a world of infinite possibilities, the choices made by screenwriter Gerald DiPego and highly skilled genre director Joseph Ruben justify the thrills in a refreshingly inventive style. Of course, I can't really divulge anything about the story without significantly diminishing its unfolding. I can say, however, that the film's existential paranoia pays off handily before downshifting into a disappointingly conventional thriller ending.

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