Passion of Mind

Passion of Mind is the first film in English of Alain Berliner, the
director of the charmingly disturbing or, disturbingly charming, Belgian film
Ma Vie en Rose. Perhaps it was decided that for his American debut he
needed to find his audience with the help of a star of the stature of Demi
Moore. Similar thinking must have lain behind the casting of Miss
Moore’s ex-husband, Bruce Willis, in
The Fifth Element by another hot young European director, the Frenchman
Luc Besson. In both cases it was a bad idea, but Miss
Moore’s seeming inability to forget
for a single moment of this performance that she is a superstar and by rights
the center of attention makes Passion of Mind the worse of the two

To some extent this is an accident of the script. We would not mind the
star’s star- consciousness quite so
much if the film itself did not make her, in addition to the beautiful and
devastatingly attractive cynosure that she would have been in any case, a kind
of superwoman. For she is given here the power that we know no
woman—or man
either—in the real world has ever been
given, namely the power to live two lives. As in Me Myself I a few weeks
ago, a merely idle and speculative fancy about what
one’s life might have been had this or
that been done differently is here elevated to a seemingly serious possibility.
Miss Moore as a widow with young children living in France falls asleep every
night and dreams that she is a high-powered career woman, unmarried and
childless, living in New York—and, as
her New York self, she dreams that she is the French widow. She has no way of
knowing which is her
life and which is the dream.

That “life is but a
dream” is one of those
pseudo-profundities which render all comment— and, indeed, all common
sense—superfluous. It ought to be reserved for the mockery it endures in
“Row, row, row your
boat.” In this movie the conceit is
automatically assimilated (as it also was even in the noticeably better Me
Myself I
) by the now over-familiar feminist melodrama: career or family?
Dear, dear, which should our heroine choose? Really, in the movies if not always
in real life, this is an utterly fake dilemma, a pantomime of agonizing which is
invariably followed by our gal’s
getting to choose both. And so it proves here, although there is a somewhat
incoherent attempt to offer a real-world explanation of the mystery in the
dénouement. One of the two lives really does turn out to be a
dream. Or a sort of hallucination anyway. But Miss
Moore’s smugness in copping, as if by
right of her superstardom, one perfect man and perfect life by shedding herself
of the illusion of the other makes it difficult for us to care very much.

Both of Demi’s dream
men—Stellan Skarsgard and William
Fichtner—are good actors, but both are
given such sappy lines to say by Ron Bass and David
Field’s script (perhaps influenced by
a bit of tinkering by the star or her agent) that any hopes for the emergence of
anything looking remotely like reality must be swiftly abandoned. Nor are the
heroine’s two shrinks, one in
Manhattan and one in France (played by Peter Riegert and Joss Ackland
respectively) given anything much better to say.
“You are riding two horses, and the
mind was not built to do that without breaking
apart,” says one in all seriousness.
Romantic bachelor number one stuns Demi by saying:
“Always do what you wish you

“Is that the secret of
happiness?” she asks.

it’s just

Romantic bachelor number two is less the philosopher than the psychoanalyst
(he’s an accountant by profession):
“I’m not the kind of guy you’re
attracted to,” he tells Demi with an
easy authority— “handsome but a
little dangerous…someone you can control only by leaving, which is the safest
control of all.” Of course, such
penetration makes him instantly the kind of guy she is attracted to.
This, like much of the rest of the film, is romance-novel twaddle and should be
avoided by anyone with anything better to do.

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