Movie review of Passion of Mind

Friday, June 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Vanity of vanities; all is vanity. Especially when your name is Demi and you've found a movie that lets you stay on screen for almost every single one of 105 minutes.

Passion of Mind is neither passionate nor mindful of much. Imagine a menage a trois between Sliding Doors, Me Myself I and The Sixth Sense, with little of the charm, the humor or suspense. Playing two halves of the same torn character, Demi Moore can barely make us care about either (much less the package deal).

Marie has a problem. She goes to sleep in a beautiful cottage on the French countryside, where she lives with her lovely daughters, hangs out with a mysterious older friend (Sinead Cusack) and works as a fashionably frumpy book critic for The New York Times (don't worry, Michiko Kakutani; your Pulitzer is still safe). But she wakes up in the next scene as Marty, a confident New York literary agent, forced to return home at night to her spacious Manhattan apartment. What's a gal to do?

Failure to elicit anything resembling sympathy is just one of the problems in Passion, although it would have been fun to see Marie/Marty wake up under a bridge with a hangover. Directed by French filmmaker Alain Berliner, who won high praise for Ma Vie En Rose, and written by cheese whiz Ron Bass, this dual dose of Demi zips so quickly between our heroine's two identities that we feel no pity or fear for her double consciousness. Time and again, with little or no apparent provocation, she becomes The Other Woman in the space of a single edit. It's split personality as minor annoyance. The only suspense lies in deciding which of her identities is more banal.

But when you're Demi Moore, it seems that even banality is attractive. Marie/Marty draws two suitors, one for each setting. In New York, it's a sensitive accountant (William Fichtner), who gets to snuggle with her in Central Park and utter the line, "When you think of ducks, what do you think?" In France, it's a passionate author (Stellan Skarsgard, who manages to add a touch of dignity to whatever he does). Two lives, two beaus, even two therapists (Joss Ackland, our man in France, and Peter Riegert, our man in New York): We can't blame Marie and Marty for getting a bit verklempt.

Passion is so numbing that you register a slight shock when the payoff actually pays off. It's a case of putting the cart before the horse, or, in this case, the climax before the rest of the story. With a denouement so creative, even moving, you almost wish you could go back and reshoot what came first. Now that would be a second chance worth taking.