Her husband's dead - or maybe not . . .

Posted: March 16, 2007

Premonition is like a dream that doesn't make sense when you're hashing it out the next morning. And in a way, that's fitting, because Sandra Bullock's character in this sappy supernatural (sappy-natural?) thriller - housewife Linda Hanson - is having trouble distinguishing her waking life from her sleeping state.

For one thing, she's taking a lot of meds, or dreaming that she's taking meds.

For another, she's not sure if her husband is dead. Some days he is - a cop showed up at her door to tell her about the fatal accident. But then Jim (Julian McMahon, of Nip/Tuck and The Fantastic Four) walks in yelping, "Honey, I'm home!", or he's down there in the kitchen having his coffee and toast.

What's a confused, depressed, and possibly delusional woman to do?

Well, if you're Bullock, a star who doesn't stray far from her fan base, you play it straight. And playing it straight in a mind-bender that might be about time warps and deja vu, or might just be a desperate spouse's wish-fulfillment fantasy, isn't necessarily the best thing. Bullock has real acting chops - her performance as Harper Lee in the other Capote movie, Infamous, was close to revelatory - but here, in a film that doesn't know whether to trick its audience or spoon-feed it, the role requires irony, edge.

And that's not happening.

Directed by Germany's Mennan Yapo from a script by Bill Kelly (a time-travel fetishist: He wrote the Brendan Frazier/Alicia Silverstone comedy Blast From the Past), Premonition starts off with Jim and Linda in newly wedded bliss. He's surprised her by purchasing a 1920s house that she's not sure they can afford. But it is lovely, and soon there's a little girl, and then another.

By the time the police officer makes his fateful appearance, the Hanson daughters are 6 and 10, and Linda and Jim have settled into a drudging, joyless marriage. She drops Bridgette and Megan off at school, does the laundry, goes shopping, gabs with best friend Annie (Nia Long) on the phone.

He scoots off to work, where deals are done and a pretty new coworker needs mentoring. When said colleague, Claire (Amber Valetta), turns up skulking behind a tree at Jim's funeral, well, clearly, something extramarital and immoral was going on.

Unless Linda's imagining the whole thing - the jealous, nervous reveries of a stay-at-home mom.

But then again, she could be seeing into the future. And it's a future she might be able to alter, if she can only get her head screwed on straight and ignore the consolations of her mother (Kate Nelligan) and the prescriptions of that creepy shrink (Peter Stormare). Maybe if Linda writes everything down on a calendar, and hides it, and then looks at it the next day to see what hasn't happened yet -

Premonition is an odd little thing, with a protagonist in a protracted fugue state and a plot that doesn't know whether its coming or going.

Or maybe it does.

Premonition ** (out of four stars)

Produced by Ashok Amritraj, Jon Jashni, Adam Shankman, Jennifer Gibgot and Sunil Perkash, directed by Mennan Yapo, written by Bill Kelly, photography by Torsten Lippstock, music by Klaus Badelt, distributed by TriStar Pictures.

Running time: 1 hour, 43 mins.

Linda Hanson. . .. . .. . .......................... Sandra Bullock

Jim Hanson..................................... Julian McMahon

Claire. . . Amber Valetta

Annie. . . Nia Long

Dr. Roth............................................. Peter Stormare

Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes)

Playing at: area theaters

Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, On Movies Online, at http://go.philly.com/onmovies.

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