‘Before I Go to Sleep’ Not Worth Remembering

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Rating: 1.0/5.0

CHICAGO – “Before I Go To Sleep” is a lobotomized amnesiac thriller that sure hopes its audience can’t remember “Memento.” It presents its promising concept as a slow, poorly paced potboiler that is packed with unpleasantness.

This shouldn’t happen with two Oscar winners in the leads. Nicole Kidman plays Christine, a woman who can’t retain any short term memories, and loses everything after 24 hours. She knows everything up until her 20’s, but everyday she wakes up in a 40 year old’s body and wonders how she got there. She goes into her bathroom to find pictures posted on the wall with helpful post-it notes identifying the name of her husband Mike (Colin Firth). He explains to her who she is, where she is, and what happened to her. The third wheel here is therapist Dr. Nasch (Mark Strong), who is secretly treating Christine and may have ulterior motives for keeping their sessions a secret from Firth.

Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth
Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth in “Before I Go to Sleep”
Photo credit: Clarius Entertainment

Dr. Nasch gives her a camera to begin keeping a video diary to capture her own memories and discoveries about her life instead of relying on Mike’s accounts. Mike walks the line between exasperation and domineering just enough that he almost makes the audience feel for this poor sap for having to put up with her.

The plot plods along fumbling for drama in scene after scene that is completely drained of it. Is Ben who he claims to be? What is he hiding? Or is Christine just a paranoid loon? There are the requisite twists and turns, false starts, red herrings and the like, but they’re blatantly telegraphed as if the audience were made entirely of amnesiacs who needed post-it notes of their own to follow the story. Even when Kidman is screaming at Firth in the rain (for no other reason than the vague hope that this will look like acting) the movie barely registers a pulse.

Even in her best roles there’s always been something alien about Kidman. She’s like a thing from another planet approximating human emotions, but there’s always something just a little bit off – and in her later day roles she’s become something of a facial invalid. So while the script calls for terror, all she can muster is a kind of frozen faced peevishness, as though pouting really hard will jog her memory. Meanwhile, Firth wears that far away look of someone who would rather be someplace, anyplace, else.

Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth
Mark Strong as Dr. Nasch in “Before I Go to Sleep”
Photo credit: Clarius Entertainment

Writer/director Rowan Joffe has no hand for suspense. The best he can muster up is an an occasional jump scare courtesy of a speeding car. When a speeding car does come out of nowhere and nearly runs over Kidman about halfway through, I was hoping it actually would because then this movie would finally be over.

Its title is fitting because “Before I Go To Sleep” is more likely to bore audiences than terrify them. The only thing I found terrifying was that I had actually lost 92 minutes of my life to this. That’s quite terrifying indeed.

“Before I Go to Sleep” opens everywhere on October 31st. Featuring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Ann-Marie Duff, Adam Levy. Screenplay adapted from the novel by S.J. Watson by Rowan Joffe. Directed by Joffe. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com contributor Spike Walters


© 2014 Spike Walters, HollywoodChicago.com

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