"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Reminiscence: Recalling the Many Things that are Good and Great about It

So here we are again.  Critics are giving Reminiscence (on HBO Max) mixed reviews, saying it's derivative.  I agree that it's derivative, but think it's excellent.  In general, I think being derivative is not a bad thing, and I disagree with the myopic critics who miss how well Reminiscence does it.

Yes, Reminiscence is reminiscent of Blade Runner.  Even more so in some ways of Total Recall, and for that matter, of all things Philip K. Dick.  But it also recalls a lot of Christopher Nolan's work, as well as movies as far back as the 1940s like Laura, and even Body Heat in 1981 to some extent.  And if it harkens to Westworld, well, Lisa Joy plays a central creative role in both.

I was a little bothered by Thandiwe Newton's character Emily motivated by the exact same thing as her character Maeve in Westworld -- finding her daughter -- but that's just one unnecessary misstep in a long list of gambits and interludes done very well in Reminiscence.  Among them are the deft mix of a flooded world and the refuge in memories, and outstanding acting by Hugh Jackman in the lead role, and Rebecca Ferguson as his all-consuming love interest Mae.

This is first time I've seen Ferguson, and I'm very impressed.  She's Swedish, and even before I knew that, she reminded me of Ingrid Bergman.  Come to think of it, Jackman's Nick Bannister reminded me a bit of Bogart.  Is that supposed to be bad?  Of course not.  It makes Reminiscence even more fun to watch.

I won't go into the plot, so as not to risk spoilers.  I will say that I like happy endings, and I'll leave it to you to decide where the ending of Reminiscence resides on the happy/sad meter.  Nick tells Mae that there are no happy endings, especially of happy stories, presumably because to end them is sad.  Mae responds that therefore she'd like to hear a happy story that ends right in the middle.  That's the kind of dialogue that lifts Reminiscence into a top tier, and if it reminds us of triumphs in cyberpunk ranging from Incandescence to Altered Carbon, so much the better.

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