Passion of Mind

on May 26, 2000 by Christine James
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   "Passion of Mind" is completely lacking in both the emotional and cerebral stimulation promised by its title. An opening narration by Marie (Demi Moore, husky-voiced to the point of evoking mucous and gravel more than smoky sensuality) nebulously explains that she lives two lives: one as a high-powered New York executive with a string of paramours, the other as a doting single mother and freelance book reviewer in France. When she goes to sleep in one life, she wakes up in the other--and she can't figure out which is the fantasy and which is reality. The trouble is, both lives are more of a snore than a dream.

   Marie struggles with intimacy issues both in her metropolitan and rustic personae, but something about her--a quality to which the audience certainly is not privy--drives men to desperate devotion. William Fichtner in Gotham and Stellan Skarsgard on the Continent pursue Marie madly, despite her commitment-crippling idiosyncrasies. As Moore depicts her increasing mental instability by pulling faces, gnawing her knuckles and staring off into space, the message becomes clear: Continually wear white undershirts and flesh-tone negligees in cold rooms, and the resulting romance can conquer even clinical insanity.

   For such a uniquely and preternaturally premised film, everything in it is painfully mundane and clichéd, from the straining-to-be-charming romantic patter (co-scripter Ron Bass' unfortunate hallmark) to the euphemized sex scenes in which director Alain Berliner actually resorts to the timeworn and laughably melodramatic tactic of sheet-clenching (her fist clenching the sheet, then his fist clenching her fist clenching the sheet-it's Cheesy Film Ecstasy 101).

   Marie's boring dates with her simpy suitors are hardly cinematic, and worse, barely anything is made of her double-life other than using it to point up her psychological problems. At one point, she eyes a hotel ashtray in France and it ends up in her New York apartment; when her stateside boyfriend inquires about its origins, she offhandedly remarks that she brought it back from her parallel existence. But the element of tangible evidence from another life is never satisfyingly pursued or explained; instead, the film opts for a reveal that will gravely disappoint in the wake of "The Sixth Sense's" bar-raising twist.    Starring Demi Moore, Stellan Skarsgard, William Fichtner and Sinead Cusack. Directed by Alain Berliner. Written by Ron Bass and Tom Field. Produced by Carole Scotta, Tom Rosenberg and Ron Bass. A Paramount Classics release. Romantic drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 105 min.

Tags: Demi Moore, Stellan Skarsgard, William Fichtner and Sinead Cusack. Directed by Alain Berliner. Written by Ron Bass and Tom Field, Produced by Carole Scotta, Tom Rosenberg, Ron Bass, Paramount, Romantic drama
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