Rated R - Running Time: 1:53 - Released 3/16/01
After all, you don't want to miss the ending. But if you go, I recommend not being late. It earns many points for sheer inventiveness, and it will certainly inspire some spirited discussion on the ride home. To sum it up, if you think this review is confusing, you get an inkling of what it's like to watch Memento. On the other hand, this backwards editing style certainly grabs our attention from the start, and forces the viewer to wrap his mind around an entirely new kind of storytelling. In a sense, the climax occurs early on, so the remainder of the film seems less and less urgent as we go, ending in the kind of exposition scene we normally are used to sitting through when we still have at least a half a bucket of popcorn. I must say that the acting is quite genuine, and the direction, especially the editing aspect of it, practically constitues a masterpiece, although Nolan's pace is deadly slow and this tends to complicate matters more than if the film were edited in the conventional fashion.
So was I. Confused? But neither he nor we learn who the real
friend is until the end of the movie (the beginning of the story).
Because of his extensive note-taking (including things that Teddy
and Natalie say about each other), Leonard is aware that at least
one of them is lying to him. While one of them tries to help Leonard
solve his problem, the other attempts to use his memory loss to
an advantage. The two primary supporting characters are a man
named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) and a woman named Natalie (Carrie-Anne
Moss), both of whom may or may not be working in Leonard's best
Of course, since we witness the whole story in reverse, we
see these notes disappear as the film goes on; we see photos un-taken
and tattoos un-written. And, most bizarre, he actually has pertinent
information tattooed all over his body. He takes polaroid pictures
of everyone he meets, scribbling their names at the bottom. So
he writes notes to himself. According to Leonard, he can remember
everything about his life up to the injury, but everything since
is a blur, and he has learned to deal with this problem by constantly
attempting to document everything he discovers and every experience
he has, especially those things that constitute evidence about
the case. Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce, Rules
Of Engagement) suffers from an inability to create new
memories as the result of an injury he incurred trying to save
his wife from an attacker. Since I can't really summarize the
film's plot in the traditional way (discussing the "beginning"
means giving away the "ending" and vice versa), I will
attempt to simply recount the relevant facts.
It's an intriguing way to watch a movie, but unfortunately, it sometimes becomes a little ponderous, and this is not helped by Nolan's dark, dull tone and unsettling subject matter. Anyone who saw the similar episode of Seinfeld (which itself was based on a play in the same style by Harold Pinter) may have some idea how this works. The film is about a man with short-term memory loss who strives to find his wife's killer, but in order to make us audience members better understand the condition, the film is edited backwards, with the final scene first and each successive scene having occurred just prior to the one preceding it. Of course, I could not hope to emulate with my unhallowed hands the clever subtleties in writer/director Nolan's achievement, but at least it will allow me to have a little fun with my job. In an attempt to give a sense of this film's structure (and also to see if anyone out there is paying attention), I'm going to try to write this review in the same way that Christopher Nolan's bizarre, inventive, and altogether fascinating film Memento is presented. ****