Customer Reviews: The Forgotten
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on October 3, 2004
I've heard the critics and I've read the viewer feedback and I'm still scratching my head. The most common thing I've heard was that people expected it to be a different kind of movie and were let down at what it turned out to be. Obviously these people either didn't see the trailer or didn't give it any thought.

The trailer sets up the premise, and the only way someone seeing it could imagine it playing out would be as either: 1) a psychological thriller, 2) an alien abduction movie, 3) a supernatural thriller. Given what's revealed in the trailers, those are pretty much the only options. If you go to the movies often, you probably saw the trailers more than once, in which case it doesn't take any great deductive powers to figure out exactly what it's going to be.

From this point on, there may be spoilers!

OK, a bit more on the trailer(s)... We see that Julianne Moore's character has lost a son and that people around her have apparently forgotten he ever existed. Next we see that pictures have been altered. At this point, the options are still open. Next we see her ripping the wallpaper and revealing to Dominic West's character that he, too, had a child who apparently died. A few moments later, we see her in official custody with him shouting through the window that he remembers. Since we have two people with shared memories of people who weren't supposed to have ever existed, the psychological thriller plot line is eliminated. This has to be some sort of conspiracy, whether supernatural, alien or pod people. The shots in the trailer aren't creepy enough for a supernatural plot, so that pretty much leaves some sort of aliens. Duh!

Knowing this, I went to see it with suitably calibrated expectations. As with all such plots, there were holes and lapses in logic, but surprisingly fewer than I would have expected. Julianne Moore gives a typically excellent performance and the other parts are well cast and performed. I must admit my wife had the nature of Gary Sinese's character nailed while I was still undecided about him.

Altogether, not a great flick, but certainly a lot better than many people have given it credit for. I enjoyed it, my wife stayed awake through it (a major endorsement!), and I left without wishing for my money or 96 minutes back.
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I got really anxious when I put in the DVD for "The Forgotten" and was given an option of watching the original theatrical release or the extended version with an alternate ending. Given what I knew about this 2004 film, to wit, a mother is the only one who remembers that she had a son, I was worried that the two endings might represents completely opposite resolutions to the situation. Fortunately, that is not the case, and I think the alternate ending is slightly stronger than the original (actually, to a great extent they are pretty compatible). But the proliferation of alternative endings on DVDs worries me, because if you are not sure where your movie is going to end when you start making it I think you are in serious trouble. Besides, I have horrid visions of the alternate endings for "Gone With the Wind" and "Casablanca."

"The Forgotten" is a film with an interesting idea, but the trailer gives away a bit too much so that you have no doubt as to which way you are supposed to be leaning on this one. Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore), has been mourning the death of her 9-year-old son, Sam, for over a year (she can do months, days, and hours). Sam was killed in an airplane crash, along with nine other kids. Telly is seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Munce (Gary Sinise), but resisting treatment, the goal of which is for her to spend less time each day looking at Sam's toys and photographs of the boy. Then she comes home one day and finds everything is gone and her husband, Jim (Anthony Edwards) is insisting she never had a child but had suffered a miscarriage.

The idea of a woman who has created a fictional child who ends up getting killed is rather compelling (even if you are suddenly thinking "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"), but that is not what is going on here. This is one of those movies were a mom, against great odds, fights for her child. Part of the problem with "The Forgotten" is that the odds against which Tally is fighting might be the greatest in human history. While this is also an interesting idea, it is played out against such monumental odds that the point Gerald Di Pego's script is trying to make about the power of a mother's love gets a bit lost.

Tally is able to enlist a couple of allies, Ash Correll (Dominic West), an ex-hockey player who does not remember the daughter Telly insists he had, and Detective Ann Pope (Alfre Woodard), who is suspicious of the feds chasing a crazy women and who finds it hard to believe that two people would be suffering parallel delusions. But the initial flaw in this film is that we know Tally is not crazy from the start and I really believe that ambiguity needs to be a bigger part of the first act of the film. The longer the film cuts both ways, the stronger this sort of story tends to be. But director Joseph Ruben apparently does not recognize this is the smart way to go.

The major flaw with this film is that once we get to THE EXPLANATION as to what is going on, your awe over the sheer magnitude of the power and magnitude of what is going on is mitigated by the simple question of "why go to all the bother?" After all, when you think about the final scene, it sure seems like a bit much for a statistical aberration, and that is without even getting into the whole question of how it is done (not that any explanation would be forthcoming, but you can appreciate the idea).

This is too bad because not only is the idea of a woman inventing a fictional child rather interesting, Moore provides an anguished performance as this particular mother, capturing both the pain of loss and the power of motherhood, and West certainly gives his role a nice little twist from what we have come to expect in such films that throw two people together. But primarily "The Forgotten" is a film that wastes several talented performers. Most of Anthony Edwards scenes are in the trailer, Sinise has to wait most of the film for a scene worthy of his talents, and "The Forgotten" is a movie that literally throws away Alfre Woodward.
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What if everything you knew began to slip away like a fading memory? The premise of The Forgotten seems like its out of The X-Files territory. Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore) is in therapy trying to come to grips with the loss of her 9 year old son in a plane crash. Fourteen months have passed and she still feels his presence vividly expecting him to walk through the door. While visiting her therapist (Gary Sinise) she discusses her sense of loss and her inability to move on. Later, she discusses her son again and he tells her she never had one.
They never discussed him. That she's having a delusion and creating an imaginary son to help her deal with other issues. When she discusses this with her husband (Anthony Edwards) he echoes her psychiatrist; they never had a son. Suddenly, photos that she was familiar with featuring her son begin disappearing replaced with others featuring only her and the husband.

Then how can her memories be so vivid? How can she still smell his hair, remember the texture of his skin, the color of his eyes, the day he first walked? How can she create a life that never was? There's no evidence he existed even the photos that she looked at the day before that had the three of them together now shows only Telly and her husband. Telly's conviction carries her on a search for her son that she knows in her heart exists. Telly discovers a series of frightening truths along this journey and that she doesn't need to take the journey alone.

A disturbing suspense thriller that takes a number of unexpected twists and turns, The Forgotten has something that most thrillers lack-heart and soul. Julianne Moore's powerful performance anchors even the most incredible scenes in the movie. It's her performance that holds the film together even as it threatens to fly apart. With a strong, memorable supporting cast The Forgotten will stay with you as will the questions that it asks. If you're looking for a clearer solution to the story's mystery, I'd suggest watching the extended version that didn't play in theaters. It paints the conclusion with more solid colors although there's much that isn't explained. That's just as well as the best suspense thrillers always leave some loose ends. For those who want a conclusion that's less clear cut, I'd suggest watching the theatrical cut. Both have their merits and both work extremely well but the inclusion of a couple of scenes might make the difference between accepting the conclusion of the film or not.

As I mentioned previously the DVD sports two versions of the film and the extended cut with the alternate ending provides a great extra for fans that want to experience a slightly different version of the film. The extended ending really consists of one sequence that pushes home the conclusion of the film a bit more aggressively and leaves the conclusion a bit less nebulous than the theatrical cut. Both versions have their merits. We also get a short documentary on the making of the film beginning with the germ of the idea and how it occurred to writer Gerald DiPego and how he developed it to the involvement of Julianne Moore and director Joseph Ruben. Many of the behind-the-scenes production talent appear in this documentary discussing the development of the project. The featurette on the making of the film provides glimpses behind-the-scenes on the making of the film with sound bites featuring the main cast discussing their roles and what attracted them to the project in the first place. Both are done exceptionally well and make up for a lack of additional extras on the optical effects used for the film. We also get deleted scenes many of which did not end up in either version of the film.

A gripping thriller that will have you guessing about the fate of the various characters in the film The Forgotten isn't likely to be a memory that'll fade away like an old photograph. The rich performances particularly by Julianne Moore, Gary Sinise, Anthony Edwards, Dominic West and Alfre Woodard ground the film in a sense of reality just as Telly's world appears to depart from it. Well directed with an intelligent script that doesn't take any short cuts, The Forgotten will linger with you like the memory of your first date or seeing the first steps your child takes. Some things can't be forgotten or taken away and the rich themes at the heart of this film will make that very clear. If you're someone looking for clear cut resolutions, you may want to watch the extended version and rent before buying. If it appeals to you, I guarantee you'll come back to it again and again. That might make it a worthwhile purchase for you.
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VINE VOICEon February 18, 2005
Poorly written, poorly acted and poorly directed, there is enough in Forgotten to dissatisfy most people.

The movie follows a mother played by Julianne Moore, who is still in mourning over the death of her son a year earlier. This tragic event takes on an extra level of grimness when all records of her son begin to disappear: except for her, no one remembers him, and photos, newspaper articles and other documents no longer prove his existence. Either Moore is crazy or something sinister is going on, and when shadowy government figures get involved, we know it's the latter.

In theory, this could be a good movie, but the story is executed so poorly that its potential quality remains a mere hypothetical. Perhaps the most grating moment comes around a third of the way through the movie, when Moore visits a man who is the father of another child who died, but who cannot remember his daughter. Fortunately, the power responsible for these existence-erasings - a force powerful and intelligent enough to alter minds and documents - just bothered to poorly wallpaper over the girl's room, allowing Moore to expose the conspiracy.

There are other laughable idiocies: the government agents who have no idea how to arrest a person, allowing chases that could have been avoided if they were semi-competent; the police detective who - with little real evidence - easily believes Moore's tale of conspiracy; and so on. Rather than relying on cleverness to move the story along, this movie uses dumbness. In a comedy, this might work, but not in this humorless horror movie. If you feel an urge to watch this film, find an old X-Files or Twilight Zone episode instead. You'll be much happier.
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on May 16, 2005
This movie had the potential for more than it actually materialized into. Like a few reviewers, I had a problem with the "mystery" behind the existence of the main character's son. It's hard to explain without giving away some of the plot elements so be forewarned that from this point on, there may be a few spoilers!

I would've been much happier with a supernatural twist on the idea of a child that was believed to exist, but that's just me I suppose. The real problem I had with the alien abduction plot was not so much the concept, but the execution. It actually reminds me of the premise of the movie "Dark City" by Alex Proyas, which is a much better alien abductee movie, by the way. Certain mechanics of how the alien race accomplishes its experiments are revealed making it for a more "believable" experience.

In Forgotten, there's a line in the movie where a character compares our hero Telly(Julianne Moore) to a lab rat. As you probably know, lab rats are often placed in an unusual environment and given free mobility for study purposes and/or injected with tomorrow's cures for today's deadly diseases and examined. Julianne Moore plays the former rat minus the fact that she isn't placed in a controlled environment per se. Rather, everything that happens to her takes place in the real world as the experimenting "alien doctors" have certain abilities of brainwashing individuals at will. Along with this, they posess the uncanny ability of marrying/unmarrying people and completely erasing individuals from everyone's memory. I guess a paper trail is no problem for these guys being that they're in cahoots with the feds.

In Dark City, there exists such a controlled environment that allows the alien race to study humans as they interact in the environment. Not only does this work to develop the storyline, but it solves a few "problems" about paperwork, the government, etc. I'm not saying Forgotten should have gone that route as well, but it should have done a better job ironing out the details.

It's important to note that I am only comparing these movies as far as the plot element goes. The style and genre of each is clearly marked in that "Dark City" is more sci-fi oriented and "Forgotten" is more psychological-driven.

Ok, so fine, they want to measure the strength of the mother/child bond....but um, why? Are they having trouble with runaway teenagers on their home planet?

This movie compromises the soundness of its ending by making it a happy one. No matter how hard they try, Telly still holds on to the memory of her son and that brings an end to the experiment. Her son is returned and she begins to put the pieces of her life again. I expected to see her being disected on a table at the end, if you want to travel the Twilight Zone route. Or, having studied the relationship via the parent's perspective, perhaps the alien doctors should have turned the table and studied the son instead, if you want to pull a Hitchcock. The rationale for the latter is that only data from the mother in the mother/child relationship has been gathered making it incomplete.

There is a nice statement Gary Sinise's character makes about the fact that the humans having no options as to our role in experimentation at the hands of superior beings. Do these creatures know not of love? Is that an anomally in humans? Were we to evolve, as a human race, would we lose the ability to love/hate?

The bottom line: Don't go into it with so many expectations (I have seen worse) because the reward it promises is not that substantial. As far as acting goes, everyone is equally good at doing what the script calls for with Julianne Moore leading the pack at a nice steady pace. Also, if you're a father you may be slightly offended by the underlying message: The love of a mother towards her child is stronger than a father's because she would never forget the child. Talk about sexism.
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on August 26, 2006
Ok so this usually happens. I prepare myself for a bad movie due to the awful reviews and I wind up enjoying the movie. I was mildly entertained by it. It's full of plot holes and things that make you roll your eyes but having said that It's really not that bad of a movie. The leading lady what ever her name is does a very nice acting job as due the other actors. Interesting plot that could have been much better but it's still worth a watch. I wouldnt buy this dvd though. I saw this on cable. I would be interested in seeing the alternate ending but I'm not sure I would even rent this movie now. Catch it on cable if you can. It's really not a horrible movie like some make it out to be.
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on March 24, 2005
I think everyone will agree that if this was an X-Files episode FOX would have proceeded it with the announcement that "all of our questions would be answered". Then, upon watching this episode, we would realize that not all of our questions were answered, but instead left on the table to allow us to figure out ourselves or not at all. That was a huge downfall for The Forgotten that really irritated me throughout the picture. Here we had the gorgeous concept of abduction, a mother's ability never to forget the child she lost, and this enormous possibility of government conspiracies, but it literally went nowhere. Throughout the film new concepts, new ideas, and possibilities that seem endless constantly attack us, but we are given no explanation. That is what bothered me the most. We had the framework for a very decent little sci-fi thriller, but instead director Joseph Ruben decided to go with a familiar story that would appeal to a non-intelligent audience instead of a crisp thriller that could have really bent your mind. I wanted my mind to wrap around this film, but instead I think my mind fell asleep.

Julianne Moore did a decent job in this film, but perhaps gave a bit too much emotion behind her character. If she wasn't crying than she was screaming or running. I wanted to see the strength of this woman and her perseverance to find her missing child, not this emotional nutcase that has a reaction to everything that happens to her. I know that Moore can do a very emotionally heavy film, but I didn't think that this project needed her to be at such a top level. Perhaps that is what was wrong with this film. The focus was completely off. Here we are focusing on the emotional struggle that Moore is going through, when we really should be trying to uncover the truth behind the disappearance. There was nearly no attempt to find out the truth. For some strange reason, I remember feeling like the honest truth was difficult for our actors to say. I felt as if they were forced into this side event that would stop Moore from being so emotional. Or, perhaps, nobody really knew what the truth was. Here we had this huge surprise Shyamalan-esque styled ending, but I never really felt as if the actors were on the same page. I could hear Ruben gasping from excitement in the background, but Sinise, West, and even Woodard seemed less surprised by it all.

I think that this film didn't do as well as hoped because the lines between what type of genre this was were skewed. Was it a sci-fi? People flying up into the air just doesn't quite do it enough for me (kinda felt like a cheap way of explaining things). Was Moore really just imagining all of this? Yet another question that needed a definite answer by the end because there were so many other elements happening that a direct answer would have only strengthened the entire film. Did anyone really care why the child was abducted? It seemed a bit flimsy to me, but again, I am no mother. I needed something, perhaps others did not, but there were these huge gaping plot holes in the film that needed to be filled somehow, but apparently the repairman couldn't make it to the set. We just jumped from moment to moment without any further explanation or reasoning. I cannot express this enough. That is the ultimate downfall for this film, the utter lack of coherence and connection between everything. I felt like I was watching a connect-the-dots that followed no order and the performers just went where ever they wanted instead of going from point A to point B.

I think I have gone a bit sidetracked here, but when I think of this film, I just cannot put everything together. I don't need something handed to me on a silver platter, in fact, I love movies that make me ponder the truth. The sad part about The Forgotten is that I nearly forgot why I was watching it midway through the film. I was connected to nothing and the unanswered questions that only broadened the scope of the film into this massive ordeal that nobody, from the director to the actors could handle.

I would also like to comment on the DVD itself of this film. For me, the theatrical version was much better than the extended version. I have heard others say that they would prefer to watch the extended because it gives us a better answer to the end (and I won't get into unanswered questions again), but for me the original ending was a hair better. Perhaps it is because I watched the extended first and it gave me such a sour taste in my mouth that the original might have just helped dissipate that sour sensation. Either way, that is my two cents.

Overall, I thought this was nothing more than just your standard issue sci-fi thriller that could have been pushed into the category of interesting or creative if it wasn't so clichéd ridden with this overwhelming desire to be "secretive". The secret is given away by the middle of the film, which still doesn't answer the questions that we have. Ruben was working with too big of a concept for his britches with this project and you can tell by the finished product that more could have been done to capture the sensationalism of aliens and abduction. It has been done before in other films, why couldn't he do it here? Yet another question that will never be answered as this film becomes just another cinematic mediocrity.

Grade: *** out of *****
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on July 30, 2005
Like most of these reviews, this has spoilers.

Julianne Moore's acting was good. Not really anyone else's, who were wasted. Cinematography was okay, but the handheld was usually obvious and sometimes overdone. The special effects were surprising at times.

Other than that, one of the biggest wastes of my time in years. I am attracted to psychological mysteries - but this wasn't one as it turned out. Oddly, the longer the film continued, the more I was convinced that it HAD to resolve psychologically, or at the very least resolve in am ambiguous way. Why? Because on its own terms, the plot had far more holes than the typical thriller and the dialog was utterly absurd. It could NOT really be happening; it had to be a dream, a hallucination, a military experiment on Telly.

But, alas, it was really happening, and thus ridiculous as well as terribly executed. Ignoring the absurdity of the inconceivable power the aliens have over every mental and physical aspect of earth life, the human actions depicted are badly scripted, the dialog often wincingly bad, and the players' motivations fuzzy.

I can't list (or even remember) the number of times I yelled at my TV, but here are a few: After their car is wrecked (how were they found at night, and was smashing a car broadside at high speed by an NSA heavy-duty SUV the most affective way to apprehend them? Why not just launch a missle at them! She isn't even hurt at all, but most SUV vs. passenger-car broadside crashes at even half the depicted speed would result in a passenger-car fatality), the next day they get in another car. Not using credit cards anymore so they cannot be traced? That was an issue the night before. Then how do they acquire that car? Is it a rental? Then they run over an alien. Why does the alien make sure they do it? And allow himself to be seen by a witness. Why does that witness call in Alfre Woodard, of all people? Maybe she has traced the credit card they should never have used, I can accept that.

Then at one point they go to the bankrupt Questair and the woman in the office says "My God! Who are you?" What kind of dialog is that? Wouldn't a real person, if surprised, say "Oh! You surprised me, sorry. How can I help you?" That actress must have been somebody's sister or mother, her performance was not professional, although the lines she was given weren't her fault. The solution to how they get Spineer's home address on Long Island - um, can't high school creative writing students find a more clever solution than what they did? The way they trick her to reveal the address is SO lame, kind of the oldest trick in the book - nothing fresh or original here - and she just blurts out his real address with no hestitation! Okay, for whatever reason she's an idiot and does this, fine. But then why does she then report that she has been scammed? Ten minutes later she thinks again "My God! Who WERE they?! Oh, What have I done? Oh, they must have tricked me!" Right. So now certainly she calls the police? Why? And which police? To say what? That she gave an address to a man and a woman? The police will care about that? Even if they did, why would the police connect this to Telly and Ash and pass it over to Alfre's investigation? So then Alfre shows up at the house, and the alien allows himself to be shot by her instead of just disappearing? Why?! And then her story goes nowhere as she is sucked away.

Why is Questair bankrupt? If they can suck the memory out of Jim so that he not only forgets his daughter but then even forgets his wife (why? why? That has nothing to do with the so-called experiment about a mother's bond), then why allow Questair to go bankrupt and be investigated? Just suck out the memory of the auditor or the court or whatever.

Why is Ash's memory of his daughter erased? If the experiment is about a mother's bond, what does that have to do with him? He is not a mother.

Everything is erased magically - not just memories, but photos altered, videos erased, drawings on books erased, old microfilm in every library in the world altered to remove the story from the NY Times, meaning every page is renumbered, the entire newspaper is reorganized in every back issue and computer version and microfilm of the world. Okay, these are very powerful aliens, fine. But then they can't get the wallpaper right in the daughter's room? No, they can alter every electronic, film and print version of the NY Times everywhere in the world, but they hire a lousy interior decorator to do a bad wallpapering job in the daughter's room.

I was just screaming at all of it. My thought was "Obviously this is a dream or delusion because this story is so bad with so many holes and such horrible dialog that it cannot have really happened, even in a world where special forces are acting upon them." I was convinced there was an experiment - but it was that Julianne had volunteered to be injected with some kind of memory altering drug for the NSA.

However, the scenes in which Julianne were not present, like with the police, made this increasingly unlikely, to my growing despair.

If they had even left us with that ambiguity, the movie might have had some redeeming quality.

I listened to a fraction of the director/writer commentary, and agree with what others wrote - it is boring. Not only that, it doesn't sound like the two had ever before met, or even knew each other. The director was asking the writer to explain certain things that he certainly should have known in order to film the garbage. The filming choices were not intelligently made. They point to poor dialog or just utterly standard moments and say "I really like that he says that there." Why? Nothing interesting or unusual was apparent at those moments These are not two filmmaking geniuses whose words can illuminate things for any serious student of film or even anyone with a casual interest.

I suppose the film could be studied for how NOT to write or make a movie. Ultimately, the film stands as tremendous inspiration to anyone else who has ever thought of getting into, say, screenwriting: if this can make it to the screen with a multi-million dollar budget, your idea probably can too.
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on September 26, 2004
A pretty decent preformance by Moore, a great first-half, and some genuine "jump" moments just aren't enough to save "Forgotten" from itself.

Without giving anything away, "Forgotten" takes a left turn in the second half that's so severe and so ridiculous that it's hard to take seriously anymore. At that point, a decent story is driven straight into the ground.

There simply wound up being one too many moments when I found myself saying "They can't be serious?"
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on October 18, 2004
I thought fer-sure this was going to be yet another stupid (kinda) sci-fi or horror movie that turns out to be all in the main character's mind. Mulholland Dr., Secret Window, etc.. BUT, that's not the case here, as you discover pretty early on in the movie. When the NSA shows up, you know there's something to it -but what?? This movie definitely falls into the catagory of good sci-fi/drama/mystery, yet did'nt spend a zillion dollars to make it, and it still has a great story and delivers entertainment.

It's pretty good, and people's claims that they actually jumped in their seats a few times, are not exaggerated.

There's not much in the theatre's right now either(10-18-04), so pickins are slim anyway. Enjoy.
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