Comfortable and Furious

The Forgotten (2004)

Feeling very much like an X-Files episode writ large for the big screen, The Forgotten is forty-five minutes too long and all too easily forgotten. Is that bad form or funny to use the title like that? I’m sorry, I just don’t have much to say about this film. It was, um, like, shot well. The camera guys could really focus on those lenses accurately. Uh, um… Julianne Moore has red hair while Anthony Edwards has none. Gary Sinise was in the movie, apparently. It’s not that it was a bad movie, but it certainly wasn’t compelling, adventurous (despite its premise) or moving. It felt just like an episode of Law & Order SVU; a way to occupy your time until the clock strikes whatever and you head out to drink with your friends. It’s been less than twenty-four hours since I watched it, and I’m having a hard time remembering the film clearly.

The plot consists of a dead child (yawn) and Telly’s (Moore) sadness over her dead kid. Oh yeah, the two main characters are inexplicably named “Telly” and “Ash.” Anyhow, she can’t work or maintain friendships or please her husband. Instead, she just sits at home and looks at her son’s baseball mitt and old video tapes. Then one day all the photos and evidence of the kid are gone and her husband (Mr. Television himself–Edwards) denies that they ever had a child. Telly is triple-dog sure they did so she goes to the library to look and see if the plane crash that killed her son was still in the newspaper. It’s not. Something fishy is going on here. She gets in contact with another parent who lost a kid, but for some reason doesn’t remember his own daughter. Telly, however, convinces him that his daughter existed. And then it turns out that the Aliens are behind everything. I capitalized the word “aliens” because it is the same fucking breed of alien you can watch week after week on X-Files. Caucasian male, thirty-eight-years-old, sufficiently creepy without being menacing, (I should mention that I watched the Director’s Cut first and then the stupider, less cerebral theatrical release second), a thousand times smarter and more technologically advanced than us, yet consumed with really bad methods of experimentation, scientifically speaking. Everything is just fine in the end.

To a set of eyes like mine, The Forgotten begs the question, “Why do kids matter so much?” I know why they do it in Hollywood. Lost or dead or sick children are the ultimate crutch, the screenwriter’s easy fix. Now admittedly, sometimes this type of catalyst can work out beautifully, like Noah Cross and his sick-ass quest to find Katherine in Chinatown. However, that is the exception to the rule and more often than not drama with children in cinema equates to Rev. Lovejoy’s wife endlessly screaming about, “Won’t somebody think of the children!!” That’s the mentality, at any rate. Now of course, Telly, cares about her dead/alien-abducted kid more than any other parent have ever cared about any child in the history of the world.

This is what The Forgotten tells us. Moreover, every third line of dialogue has some riff on, “I want my son back.” Yes, yes, we all want our children back. As I mentioned, in the end, she just wants her kid so much that she through I–guess love or whatever (a woman’s single mindedness) –gets her son back. I guess my question is, couldn’t we, just once, see a movie where a kid dies or gets kidnapped and the parent is like, “Meh. We had a good eleven years, but I really have missed out on so much. It sucks she’s dead, but I’m going to Mazatlan for a month. And I’m going to be drunk by noon, every day.” I know, I’m a dreamer. It would be if after Telly had cried, “I want my son back,” Ash or whoever was like, “Why? By giving him life you’ve given him death anyway. Why not let him enjoy his head start and rest peacefully?”

I mentioned the constant “I just want my son back” style dialogue. But really, everything else is a cliché, too. For instance, the other parent, Ash (Dominic West), who remembers he has a kid is also a “drunk.” Telly can’t work and Ash is a drunk. Hollywood always seems to dictate that there is no way a person can experience loss and not develop “problems.” He’s supposed to be an ex-hockey player (New York Rangers) but he has a problem with alcohol. His problem? He’s a heavy sleeper. This guy pounds a bottle of whisky a night (maybe more) and it takes Telly ten seconds longer to rouse him in the morning. He’s still in great physical shape (the two spend half the movie sprinting around and fighting) and pretty damn alert. Why can’t I have a drinking problem like that? I mean, I didn’t put pants on today until 3:30 pm. Anyhow, of course Telly immediately starts nagging Ash not to drink.

He actually gets off a decent one-liner about how he can feel a woman’s eyes judging him even if his back is turned. Honestly, it is the only semi-honest or original piece of dialogue in the film. Then there’s the NSA agents who tell everyone they aren’t authorized to know anything (one of them is my buddy, Bob Wisdom), the jaded, street-smart New York cop who of course hates the feds… Let me pause here to show you just how cliché© ridden The Forgotten is. So, the street-smart cop tells the NSA agents that had better tell her what’s going on here. They respond with the boilerplate, “That’s on a need-to-know basis and you don’t need to know.” It may not be exactly that–I wasn’t taking notes–but essentially, that’s the gist. Amazingly, the cop finishes the agent’s sentence with him and says, “You guys need some new material.” I couldn’t put it better myself.

While not a true stinker, The Forgotten kills itself by not being daring in any way. They could have replaced aliens with kidnappers or terrorists or anything and 95% of the dialogue would have been the same. Look, I know kids are special to parents, but, if I learn of a vast alien/government/human guinea pig conspiracy I will immediately stop being concerned with the child and move on to the next phase of my life; how to please my new alien masters. Actually, that’s probably what upsets me about The Forgotten the most. While not stated explicitly, Telly basically says that she doesn’t care at all about the fact that not only are there aliens running around, but that they are in cahoots with the government to capture and perform experiments on her fellow human beings. So long as she gets her kid back, fuck everybody else. Which, you know, is lame.

Special Ruthless Reviews:

  • Well: They could have called this The Running Woman.
  • Did the lack of aliens in a movie about aliens bother you: No, the idea presented that motherhood is more important than anything else–even contact with other planets–bothered me.
  • But like, there was only one alien and he didn’t do anything: Well, in the theatrical version he freaked out at one point and his face contorted into that of a “gray,” the usual fabrication of what ETs look like drawn by alien-believing lunatics everywhere and as seen on the X-Files several times. In the director’s cut with the alternate ending, alien boy just fucks with her psychologically. Both endings are equally dull, I assure you.
  • So, like, didn’t lots of other kid’s die in the plane crash? Like, why only get in touch with Ash: Well, cause he had a drinking problem and if they can cure him of the devil-drink, then they can do anything! Ok, actually, I have no idea. One of the film’s several gaping plot-holes.
  • Anything else: I don’t want to dwell on it, but Moore and Ewards are the least plausible married couple in the history of film.


We love Ebert around here:

“But how, and why, would her husband, and her shrink, and her neighbor, and her other neighbor, and even the New York Times, completely forget about Sam and the crash and all those little kids? The most likely hypothesis is that Telly is crazy and everybody else is right. But who would make a movie about a mother discovering her beloved child was imaginary? That would be too sad, too tragic, and, for that matter, too thought-provoking and artistically challenging, and might even make a good movie.”