6 July 2001 | d_fienberg
Slow and largely uninvolving Romantic Drama
There is a mystery at the heart of Forever Mine, the most recent downturn in writer-director Paul Schrader's roller coaster of a career. The mystery involves a man in the first class section of an airplane to New York, circa 1987. The man looks a little bit like Joseph Fiennes, but he is wearing a goofy make-up job to imply scarring and he is speaking with a goofy accent to add intrigue. And thus the mystery can be summed up with a series of questions: Who? Who is this man? What? What is he going to New York to do, dressed as a drug dealer? And Why? Why would anybody cast Joseph Fiennes for a part that required acting? Sure, Fiennes is perfectly skilled at looking soulful, but anything beyond that -- accent, characterization, etc -- is out of his range.
We cut quickly from the plane to "14 years earlier" where we see Fiennes again, now much younger. We know he's younger because he isn't scarred and he doesn't have a goatee. He also isn't speaking with a thick Cuban accent anymore. He has a strange accent that waffles between British, "American," and "Latino." Fiennes is Alan, a cabana boy at a Miami resort. His friend Javier is trying to convince him that he should enter the drug game to make some real money. But Alan has clearly seen DePalma's Scarface, Blow, and a number of other drug movies and he has more legitimate dreams, starting, apparently, with bedding the wife (Gretchen Mol) of a New York businessman (Ray Liotta). Alan and the wife, Ella, begin perhaps the most public affair in cinema history. They make out down the beach from her husband, they get all kissy at local bars, and then have emotional conversations outside her hotel room. And the husband doesn't find out. But then it's time for the couple leave, but soulful Fiennes cannot let Ella go. We're not really sure why, though. As a character, she's a total cypher. Schrader gives her one or two expositional confessional moments, but that's about it.
So of course the relationship is at least temporarily doomed. But in Schrader's universe we knew that before Alan and Ella even kissed, because we know that she's Catholic and that guilt and morality will quickly come into play. As with several other Schrader works, religious fervor is the central plot device, which leads to Alan's deformity, Ella's regret, and the film's film act.
Beyond the Catholicism, though, there's not much at stake in Forever Mine. The two leads have minimal chemistry and the film is plagued by constant continuity errors and cliched plotting. I was troubled by the fact that the 14 years between the flashback and the framing device had done nothing to age any of characters. And I was perplexed by the fact that even though Alan's friend Javier starts out as the the man with the connections, he ends up as a glorified servant. I didn't understand why Schrader couldn't be bothered to develop either Ella's character or that of her husband. And I was just annoyed by Fiennes's inconsistantcy as an actor.
Schrader seems to be having fun with his own background and the backgrounds of his actors. There appear to be obvious references to Goodfellas and Taxi Driver, while Fiennes's 1987 persona has a strange similarity to Robert DeNiro. And all of the elements seemed to have been in place for a fine film. This was Schrader's follow-up to the minor masterpiece Affliction and Fiennes's follow-up to Shakespeare in Love. It was also Mol's first starring role after Vanity Fair jumped the gun and made her an "It" Girl shortly before the release of several small parts. But really nothing comes together. Schrader plots an affair without any twists or originality beside the Catholic guilt that have always fueled his violent Graham Greene-esque visions. The political context that justifies the period setting is hardly worth the effort. The drug subplot goes nowhere. And when Ella sits reading Madame Bovary to a group of senior citizens, the symbolism is just infantile.
Forever Mine never was released in theaters because the company producing it went under. It premiered on Starz! and moved to video. It's hard to imagine it having any real box office potential under any circumstances. This film is a 3/10 at best.