Moore's character has two lives: Marty lives in hard, bleak New York as a single, nervy, literary agent; Marie is a widowed mother of two in lush, romantic Provence. When she sleeps in one life, she dreams of the other, and yet cannot determine which is real. As Berliner introduces Marty/Marie and her dilemma, it's obvious that Passion of Mind will follow in the thematic footsteps of other similar, bland movies like Sliding Doors. A woman has two parallel lives - what if both are just too flat-out boring to be a movie?
In France, Marie begins falling for a struggling writer, played by the moody, hard-working Stellan Skarsgård; in New York, Marty bonds with an accountant, played by the intense William Fichtner (so great in last year's Go). Berliner spends the first half of the movie jetting between the two "lives", bringing the couples together, but what's missing from Ron Bass' script is "connection": those intriguing story threads that could have us looking for clues in one life as to what might happen in the other, creating a tight structure of personalities in the process. From the sometimes snooty air of the story, there's a sense that such easy devices might be beneath the filmmakers. So instead, we get two separate love stories, mediocre at best, and sapped of all potential.
The second, somewhat fractured, half of the film gains a little ground as Marty/Marie tells both lovers of her ongoing mental dilemma. She sleeps with both, but won't share a room with either, fearing she'll awaken unnaturally and lose the other life. As our confused heroine analyzes her certain insanity, we get a sort of fourth-dimension love triangle, with a strong female character genuinely enjoying her polygamy. Unfortunately, Berliner doesn't have the guts to examine that part of the story, as say, Spike Lee did in She's Gotta Have It. Instead, he just chalks up her cheating to the fact that she exists on separate planes. And frankly, by this time, we've lost interest anyway.
Skarsgard handles his role with the insight and honesty that fans of his are coming to expect, and Fichtner is piercing as always. Demi Moore, however, seems out of practice, making already poor dialogue sound more contrived than it already is, looking and sounding like some parallel version of Courteney Cox.
Lacking subtlety where it could use some, and punch where it should be, Passion of Mind becomes a 100-minute picture postcard of two cities, rather than a probing blueprint of a tortured woman's mind. If the promising Berliner doesn't choose future material more carefully, he may wish that he was another director in some parallel universe.
Out of sight, out of Mind.
Run time: 105 mins
In Theaters: Friday 7th January 2000
Distributed by: Paramount Home Video
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 17%
Fresh: 6 Rotten: 29
IMDB: 5.6 / 10
Director: Alain Berliner
Producer: Ron Bass