Review: Reminiscence

I slogged through the three seasons of Westworld on pure inertia. Though the basic premise of androids “evolving” self-consciousness and its attendant moral structures wasn’t particularly original, the extended series format gave creator Lisa Joy ample opportunity to explore all the possible ramifications, and within a fictional environment that was both hilariously uber-capitalist (a movie western theme park where the rich could indulge their worst impulses and appetites) and which encouraged creative narrative flights of fancy. The problem with the series was its attention to sci-fi and action movie formulas that eventually ground the characters down into dramatic stereotypes. Joy’s first film feature as director suffers from much the same lack of sustained rigor. The future of Reminiscence could be the same as that depicted in Westworld, only that we’re focused on a less affluent layer of society and a retail concept that’s cheaper and more malleable. 

Miami is now a half-submerged city, like Venice but with skyscrapers. Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) and his partner Watts (Thandiwe Newton, the lone holdover from Westworld) run a service that allows clients to restore lost memories. Most want to relive pleasant experiences from their past, and there’s more than a hint that such indulgences have an addictive quality. One regular customer is behind on his payments but Nick lets it slide because, as a veteran of a terrible foreign war, he understands how important the salve of nostalgia can be for the PTSD-rattled mind. Conveniently, the memories can be stored on discs as reproducible holograms, an aspect that plays into the mystery that fuels the plot, which starts when the requisite mysterious femme fatale, here a nightclub singer named Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), comes in for a very prosaic purpose — she lost her keys and wants to remember where she left them. The fact that Nick’s eyes light up when she first walks in the door indicate beyond a doubt that Reminiscence is designed as an exercise in old-fashioned film noir, and, as she has shown in Westworld, Joy is nothing if not faithful to the cliches she follows. 

Long story short, Nick and Mae end up in a passionate affair from which Nick cannot possibly exit in one piece, at least not psychologically, when Mae disappears without saying anything. Like any noir detective whose sexual ego has been bruised (what’s love got to do with it?), Nick’s attempts to track her down involve him in the doings of underworld criminals and powerful plutocrats, not to mention the corrupt cops who always figure into these stories. In the end, Joy tries to tie it altogether, as she did several times on Westworld, by plunging her main characters into a morass of self-doubt that demands they question the reality they think they’ve lived. In other words, Nick eventually gets wise, as the old noir saying goes, but the viewer, always wiser, may not care. 

Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Nihonbashi (050-6868-5060), Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Marunouchi Piccadilly (050-6875-0075), Shinjuku Wald 9 (03-5369-4955), Shinjuku Piccadilly (050-6861-3011), Toho Cinemas Shinjuku (050-6868-5063), Toho Cinemas Shibuya (050-6868-5002), Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills (050-6868-5024).

Reminiscence home page in Japanese

photo (c) 2021 Warner Bros. Ent.

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