One sunny afternoon, Linda opens her door to a police officer, who bears news that Jim has been horribly mangled in a car accident. Rising from a black night's sleep, she wobbles to the kitchen to find Jim very much alive, nonchalantly eating a bowl of cereal. Whew, thinks she, gnarliest dream ever, and the day goes by more or less swimmingly. Next morning, Linda wakes to find a bottle of lithium in her bathroom, a funeral assembly in her living room, Jim remangled, and her elder daughter ominously posed on a swing set with a Frankenstein mess of fresh scars and stitches on her face.
Where am I? Who am I? What day is it? WTF? And so it begins, a world tied up in knots, each day darting in and out of the black hole of Jim's demise, with Linda dragged hither and yon through space and time by the brain-twisting whims of ... the number 23!
Actually, her reality has been hijacked by an imp of the perverse named Bill Kelly, practitioner of the dark arts of screwy screenwriting. Directed with loopy sincerity by Mennan Yapo, Premonition strings up its heroine in a temporal torture apparatus and watches her squirm. There is, for example, a spooky shrink, played by Peter Stormare, who commits Linda to an institution one day, then listens patiently the "next" as she visits his office for the first time, having located his name on her lithium bottle, which, of course, he has yet to prescribe. "Obviously," notes the doctor, "you're dealing with some inconsistencies."
Tell me about it. You might need to watch Premonition twice to fully sort out its helter-skelter high jinks, though once is more than enough for all other purposes. Yet the real surprise of this chick-flick mind-fuck is that once is almost worth it though not for the birdbrained message about appreciating life, and definitely not for the suggestion that Linda's limbo was triggered by a lack of faith. As an exercise in "the new cinematic disorder," as David Denby recently trademarked the trend of flagrant nonlinear storytelling, Premonition lacks the suavity of Babel. Still, it manages to escape its mirthless pretense and gloomy self-regard. Closer in spirit to the schlocky kicks of Déjà Vu, it's a B-level entry in the cracked-continuity genre, with a winningly humble, workmanlike vibe.
"If I let Jim die, is that the same as killing him?" Linda wonders in a moment of delicious perplexity. Deep in her metaphysical sludge, she has unearthed the details of an affair, unconsummated, between Jim and a co-worker (Amber Valletta can you blame him?). Self-awareness is the thread through the Premonition labyrinth, and the movie kicks into gear when Linda grabs it and yanks. Exhaustion gives way to exasperation as she digs into the existential mess and gets organized, plotting the scramble of events and clues on a large desk calendar and running around town putting the pieces together.
Bullock's affable performance starts strong, then muscles up as a faint but lifesaving strain of humor creeps into the material. The otherwise hackneyed Premonition finds a new groove in this middle stretch as Linda goes from beleaguered to what can only be described as slightly peeved. Had the film maintained a tone of kooky, Kafkaesque tragicomedy, narrowing on Linda's wacko wrestling match with the laws of physics, we might really have had something here. I'd kill to watch girlfriend whip out a Palm Pilot and start calculating vectors of the vortex.
That's the Premonition that Richard Kelly might have made. Yapo, alas, is of more pedestrian intelligence, but he isn't dumb a bit goofy, yes, but not dumb. He wisely leaves the explanation hanging. Linda may be having a premonition, she may be mad, or this may all be an elaborate form of catharsis leaking into a mind cracked from trauma. What it is not, finally, is connected to any persuasive moral or emotional core, though it does resolve with a denouement at once tougher and sappier than expected.