My wife hates seeing movies with me since I started reviewing them. When we saw Fatal Attraction, and Michael Douglas sat on the edge of the bathtub after drowning Glenn Close, I started muttering, “She’s gonna get up.”
“No, she’s not. Anne Archer hasn’t fired the gun she picked up three scenes ago, and besides, look at all that empty space on the left side of the screen.”
Then Glenn Close sat up, and my wife screamed. And then she hit me in the arm. Hard.
My head is full of movie tricks—the three-act structure, mise-en-scene, the left-screen discomfort zone—and while my wife argues that, like magicians or guitar players who critique each other from the audience, I’ve robbed myself of a sense of wonder at the movies, I find that knowing the tricks makes the experience even better. When I see the Dutch tilt performed by Hitchcock or Polanski, God how I love my job. But there is a downside. I get more impatient than most when a movie tries to use the audience’s sense of wonder to trick them, or stall them, or flat-out bullshit them. The Twin Peaks movie (Fire Walk With Me) springs to mind, so does The Sixth Sense. Watching these films makes you feel like Geraldo Rivera at Al Capone’s vault—all that work getting in to reveal nothing but two hours of the audience’s time wasted—except that while most people may sympathize with Geraldo, I’m wondering how he managed to convince anyone to give him two hours of prime network air without a clear payoff.
Gavin Wilding’s Convergence (released on video as Premonition) is like that. By the film’s end, we know nothing more than we did before it started, and Wilding has the brass balls to inform us that that is the point: Shit happens. Ali Caine (Cynthia Preston) is a new reporter for a Weekly World News-type supermarket tabloid based in Seattle, learning the tricks of the sleaze-rag trade under the wing of veteran Morley Allen (Christopher Lloyd, doing his best Lance Henrikssen impression), a former reporter for the legitimate press who became disillusioned and cynical about . . . something. What that something is we don’t know because Allen’s dialogue is entirely composed of short, cryptic sentences about knowing things and not knowing things and what the truth is and isn’t. Allen rejects all of Ali’s story ideas—odd for a newspaper that runs extensive Bigfoot coverage—and seems to feel he can do his job best by not actually teaching her anything. But it’s okay: the film is all about non-information anyway.
Besides, Ali has her own problems. She comes home to find her boyfriend sitting in a daze and telling her to get out, for no discernable reason, then she wanders into an all-night laundromat and has a spontaneous psychotic episode. She and Allen go to a psychiatric hospital to visit an autistic boy who has predicted the deaths of other patients (the only actual example of Premonition in the film). As Allen decides, again, that there is no story here—what kind of rag is this paper, anyway?—the boy suddenly predicts a tragedy of some kind to befall Ali. The next day, she and Allen discover the wreckage of Ali’s best friend’s car on the street, where it is apparently invisible to everyone else, with said friend’s watch stopped at the predicted time.
Let’s see, what else does this paella of a movie have? Ali’s new roommate Brady (Adrian Paul, with next to nothing to do here) comes home from his job at the morgue to find the usually timid Ali sexed up and raring to tie him to the bed. Allen finds a photo of a young Ali and the psychic autistic boy together, though they supposedly have never met. Ali is injured when her apartment implodes. Allen meets a nun who tells him that Ali is “not supposed to be here.” And every establishing shot of Seattle at night is filled with these odd con-trails that nobody seems to notice.
How do all of these elements come together? Beats me. Once we find that there’s something not right about Ali, we’re stuck following Allen around as he digs for the truth—except we’ve already established that Allen is the worst investigative reporter on earth. So as events around Ali get weirder and more random, all we can do is wait for the answer to drop into our laps. And it does, about two minutes before the end of the film: Shit happens. No, really. It turns out the Seattle is one of those points on Earth where mystical lines of energy converge (hence the film’s original title), and at those points reality turns on itself—anything can happen and does. It’s clear that we are supposed to be blown away by the cosmic wonder of it all, but I’m afraid my sense of cosmic wonder gave way to an incoherent gargle of rage: after ninety minutes of non-plot, non-character-development, and non-action, the payoff is a single piece of non-exposition.
Maybe my wife is right. Perhaps constantly looking for the man behind the curtain has withered my ability to be impressed by the Great and Powerful Oz. But with so many hacks out there who are able to scrape up the development capital to commit their half-assed apocalyptic notions to film, the good films, the artful films, the roller-coasters and tear-jerkers and knuckle-biters, the Real Deals become just that much more precious.