Passion Of Mind
Foreign directors who enter the Hollywood system often face a daunting set of challenges, from the larger-scaled productions to the language barrier to the loss of creative control. Case in point: Alain Berliner, a gifted Belgian who made an auspicious debut with the candy-colored Ma Vie En Rose, a sensitive and emotionally resonant drama about a boy's pre-adolescent struggles with gender identity. For his first American feature, the painfully soporific Passion Of Mind, Berliner has been saddled with a leaden name actress in Demi Moore and a syrupy Ron Bass (Rain Man, Stepmom) script he was contractually obligated to follow to the letter. It's easy to see what might have attracted him to the basic premise, which deals with a woman's inability to distinguish between the real world and a dream world. In Rose, he explored a similar dilemma to much greater effect, as his young hero escaped the pressures of suburban conformity by drifting into lush, Barbie-doll fantasies. But there's not a trace of his quirky personal vision in Passion Of Mind, which could hardly be less imaginative in finding ways for its separate worlds to interact. Berliner and Bass offer two banal melodramas for the price of one: In the first, Moore plays a widowed book reviewer living in France with her two daughters; she falls in love with Stellan Skarsgård, an author she panned in The New York Times. (To prove she's not a bloodless critic, she has some fiction of her own tucked away in a closet.) In the second, she's a single literary agent in New York, also in love, but this time with scruffy accountant William Fichtner. Since there's virtually no difference or meaningful crossover between Moore's life in New York or provincial France, the question of which is real and which is false carries little suspense. Until it ends with a ridiculous piece of Oprah-worthy pop psychology, Passion Of Mind simply multiplies analyst sessions, gauzy lovemaking, and brickbat symbolism by a factor of two.