17 MARCH 2007, Page 73

Beyond belief

Deborah Ross


12A, Nationwide

In this film Sandra Bullock plays Linda Hanson, wife of dishy Jim Hansom (Julian McMahon), mother to two adorable little girls, Megan and Bridgette, and one of those blissfully contented stayat-home moms who — even though this is very much horses for courses — still make you want to puke a little. It’s a happy, Hanson family, all right. ‘Why don’t you take the girls out and have some fun?’ Linda suggests to Jim one Sunday morning. ‘Sure, that’s a great idea,’ he replies, as if she’s just come up with the internal-combustion engine. He’s a great catch, dishy Jim. Most dads would say: ‘What? All on my own?’ Or even: ‘Children? Since when?’ And maybe: ‘That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard!’ But, whoa, what’s this? Do I sense something bad is about to happen? Something really bad that’ll give this family a good old kicking and hang their complacency out to dry with the sheets. (I’ll say one thing for Linda: she sure gets her whites white.) Yes, I do believe I sense this. But why? Premonition? I think it must be. It must be some kind of bug doing the rounds. I hope old people are getting the jab. But I’ve got it and I’ve got it bad. I can see, as clear as day, that she’s not going to be allowed to carry on with all her contented stay-athome, lovey-dovey Jim stuff — ‘I love you!’; ‘I love you too!’ — because: 1) it would be a lousy movie and 2) it would be a lousy movie and 3) it’s a lousy movie anyway, but they don’t know that yet. Sometimes, premonition is not all it’s cracked up to be. So, one afternoon, Linda opens the door and it’s the local sheriff who says, sorry, but Jim’s died in a traffic accident. Well, Linda can’t bake her way out of this one and she’s devastated, but the next day, when she wakes up, who’s at the breakfast table, drinking coffee? Jim! But the day after that? Dead again. And so it goes on: alive; dead; alive; dead; dead; alive. Eventually, she realises she’s somehow come unstuck in time: that the next morning isn’t the next morning, it’s several days earlier, and yesterday is tomorrow and on and on — and you know what? This has to be the funniest film of the year. Laugh, I thought I’d die, if not tomorrow then at least last Thursday.

The whole thing is just so fabulously, gloriously risible. The narrative follows no known logic: not internal, not external, not even the logic that can’t quite make up its mind and sits on the patio, dithering about whether to stay out or come in. It’s like the scriptwriter (Bill Kelly) looked at logic in all its forms and thought, ‘Nah, can’t be doing with any of that.’ Why, for example, can Linda see the future from the past, but when she goes into the future, can’t recall the interim? Why, when the sheriff comes to the door, doesn’t she say, ‘I know Jim’s been in an accident. I was there’? She should have. And the continuity blunders are wonderful, too. Poor little Bridgette goes straight through the glass of a French window prior to Jim’s accident. Her face is cut to ribbons. But when Linda has to tell her Jim is dead? Her face is perfectly fine. But at the funeral? All cut up again.

This is meant to be a tense thriller, I think, but the only tension derives from waiting to see how the script is going to explain it all away. And? It doesn’t. Bill obviously wasn’t in the mood for giving any answers, either. That Bill, what a one. No logic, plot holes you could lose entire planets in, and nothing to say about anything. This takes a certain type of genius, surely. There’s a hint at the supernatural — a crow being sizzled on a power line during a storm — but it doesn’t go anywhere. And there’s some suggestion it might be because Linda has lost her religious faith. As her local priest tells her, ‘People who’ve lost belief are empty vessels more susceptible to being taken over by something else. Nature abhors a vacuum.’ Does this include the Dyson, I wonder, or does nature like that better?

You know, I’ve always rather liked Sandra Bullock, but she acts like she’s swimming though soup in this, and who can blame her? As for the final scene, it’ll make you hoot, honestly. I laughed so hard my drink came out my nose. Should you go to see it? Of course not. On the other hand, a bad film is one thing, but a film as bad as this might almost be considered a triumph. I leave it to you.