Less than 30 seconds into the first reel, "Passion of Mind" practically trumpets the fact that its narrative in is a mess.Employing a catch-you-up expository voice-over, director Alian Berliner ("Ma Vie En Rose") drops you into the middle of this story like he's removing a blindfold to reveal you're behind the wheel of a car going off a cliff.
Literally the first thing you hear after the lights go down is Demi Moore's voice saying, "I could no longer tell my dream world from my real world. I don't know who I am any more."
Demi is confused because she's a balls-in-the-air, single Manhattan career gal with her own literary agency by day, but when she goes to sleep every night she dreams a whole other life in the south of France as a lovelorn widow with two daughters and a beautiful estate...
...Or is she a lonely widow who goes to sleep every night and dreams of a life as a big city career gal? That's the question that plagues our heroine. Although I don't know if "plagues" is the right word since she's quite happy and unconflicted (not to mention, never tired) living a dual life -- which is a huge burden on the story since subsequently there's nothing to build on for the first hour of the film.
She has shrinks in both lives who tell her the other one is a fantasy. Soon, she has men in both lives, too. In France, Stellan Skarsgard ("Time Code," "Ronin," "Breaking the Waves") plays a tedious writer whose charm seems to be cribbed from Hallmark cards. In New York, creepy William Fichtner ("Drowning Mona," "Go," "Contact") is a listless lawyer who romances her with language that sounds like boy band lyrics.
But while this might sound like a potentially juicy setup for a cerebral thriller, "Passion of Mind" has neither the emotional sincerity nor the intelligence to engage the audience on any level. The plot is completely static until Moore's mind begins to fracture in the last 15 minutes because she is -- finally -- torn between lovers and realities. Other than watching Moore being generically wooed, the only thing in this movie to hold the audience's interest is the obsessive jealousy each lover begins to feel toward the man in her other life.
Why she keeps telling them about each other is anybody's guess. Why each of them clings to her so desperately in spite of her romantic selfishness and her schizophrenia is an even bigger mystery, because she's not a compelling woman in any way.
Moore's performance is completely vanilla. Her only character traits are that she's upbeat most of the time and she has criminal fashion sense in both lives (gratuitous pilgrim collars and gaudy jewelry in New York, overalls and "Heidi" pigtails in France).
There have been close to a dozen multiple-reality pictures in the last three years -- "Dark City," "Open Your Eyes," "Twice Upon a Yesterday," "The Matrix," "The Thirteenth Floor," "Existenz." Two of them -- "Sliding Doors" and this year's "Me Myself I" -- were similarly about women leading "what if?" alternative lives. Every one of these earlier pictures, even the bad ones, at least had a central character with a personality.