See Sandra Suffer
Mennan Yapo
Sandra Bullock, Julian McMahon, Nia Long, Kate Nelligan
The Setup: 
Woman’s week gets SO out of whack!

I had maintained a little interest in this movie, given my unfounded love of Sandra Bullock, and the fact that it looked a little loopy, hopefully in the manner of her The Lake House—which was exactly the kind of drivel I can get into. The problem was, this one looked less of a mind-trip and more of a bummer, which is exactly what it was, albeit leavened by a tiny bit of unexpected depth right at the end.

We begin with some washed-out footage [OH no, we say] of Julian McMahon as Jim surprising Sandra with a gorgeous house he bought for the both of them. It’s one of those scenes in which you look for the MasterCard logo in the corner. Then Sandra as Linda [we’ll just call her Sandra, I mean, come on] is woken by her two perfect daughters. Sandra is in “perfect mom” mode as she shuttles the kids to work in her SUV. She also has a friend who just happens to be black in Nia Long, who has little to do in the movie except to show that cool Sandra has a black friend. Note how the friend is telling about her forthcoming date, saying “He could be the one,” which Sandra replies to by saying “Bye,” and hanging up. There’s also a disturbing message on the machine from Jim, about something they talked about yesterday, then he clicks over and says “Is that you?” Why—is it WHO? Inquiring minds actually don’t care. Then a cop comes over and tells her Jim died in a car accident yesterday, and he couldn’t be bothered to come around and tell her ‘til now—you know how hectic it gets at the office. She is devastated, etc.

She wakes the next day [or… IS it?] to find Jim downstairs and no message on the machine. It’s sort of a Groundhog Day kind of thing for a while, then Sandra trips and falls into a gory dead crow and gets blood all over her! It’s a little inappropriate, but Sandra in the “Making of” doc said she wanted to be in a “scary” movie, so maybe they equate gore with horror? Got me. Anyway, she goes to bed again and whoops, husband dead again, there’s a roomful of funeral happening downstairs that Sandra was sleeping through, and guess what, one of her kids’ face is all cut up. Yeah, stitches and everything! They go to the funeral where Sandra realizes she hasn’t SEEN the body, and forces them to yank the casket out of the hearse. Now, her mother is warning her against this, uttering one of the more bizarre lines in movie history, “Uh, honey, there’s been a SEVERING.” We find that out a second later when the casket falls, and Jim’s HEAD rolls across the pavement! It’s so quick, you have to frame-by-frame to be sure what you just saw [and yeah, you did], which makes me believe they had more severed-head-roll footage and edited it later to tone it down. Then a mysterious blonde makes an appearance at Jim’s funeral, saying she talked to Sandra yesterday.

Then Mom has Sandra COMMITTED! She is taken away by Peter Stormare looking goddamned HOT with a beard and cropped hair, and Mom shrieks “Tell us what you did to Brigette!”—that’s the daughter that got slashed. Mom thinks Sandra carved her up! Thanks for the trust, Mom. Geez. Writing all this, I can see where this could once have been seen as a horror mystery, but the tone its shot with is not horror at all—more just grim melodrama. See Sandra suffer.

Oh, by the way, while the doctors and dragging Sandra kicking and screaming from the house, and everyone is having total trauma, Sandra shouts to the kids, who are being taken away from this shocking sight: “Everything’s okay, baby!” Ah yes, I can see that.

She wakes again and hubby’s in the shower. Around this time you start to think “This movie is just going to jerk me around for 85 minutes, plant a ‘wowzer’ explanation on me at the end, and cut off.” You have also started to wonder why NONE of these people has a calendar! Why does NO ONE ask what day it is? Does anyone really know what time it is? Well, these people definitely don’t really care, ba ba ba.

Then she sees the woman from the funeral at Jim’s office! Then the daughter smashes through the glass door—that’s what happened. Then she goes to see Stormare, a psychologist, and he is snidely belittling while at the same time remaining ludicrously hot. Then Sandra finally makes a goddamned calendar!

So she’s begin to sense that she’s experiencing her week out of order. That’s why people have calendars, useless fool! She realizes that Jim was GOING to cheat on her, and that she could potentially save him on the days he’s still alive, by warning him or rekindling their waning sex life. She wonders if she just “let” him die, if that would be the same as killing him. The next day [or whenever] she goes to a priest and: SUDDEN SUBTEXT!

The priest tells her that she is experiencing heavy flow—NO, silly she’s experiencing the “dangers of the faithless,” which means that “Nature abhors a vacuum—even a spiritual one.” You see, Sandra is paying the price for not being spiritual, and because she doesn’t have the guiding light of Christ in her life, her days have gotten all out of order. I mean, you read about it in the papers all the time. This is, btw, when you hear about movies having subtle religious message, THIS what they’re talking about. It’s enough to make Sandra squeal “I need faith!”

So she goes and stands in the middle of a highway.

That night, Jim still alive, she coerces him into saying he loves his daughters in a really awkward way. “Aren’t you going to tell them?” She asks. “That you love them? You DO love them, don’t you?” God Mom, give your kids a complex, why don’t you!

So the next day is Wednesday, the day of Jim’s big severing. He decides that he DOESN’T want to pump the hot blonde babe at his office who has already checked into the hotel and is warm and receptive [Amber Valetta, again the hot model other woman that results in an ugly death—she’s getting typecast]. Rather, Jim will remain faithful to his wife. She calls him as he’s leaving the message from the beginning, causing him to say “Is that you?” See, he was talking to HER. She’s right behind him in her car, and asks him to pull over. But he’s in the spot where the accident happened, so she asks him to turn around and come back to her, which he does and—get THIS—he stops in the road, gets run over by a huge truck, and I believe there was indeed some sort of something that could be described as “a severing.” So—it was HER fault! If she hadn’t tried to “save” him, she wouldn’t have KILLED him! That’s gotta give someone some issues. Man, sometimes ya just can’t win for losing.

We now have short flashbacks to the priest’s chat about not having faith and “Now she knows what to fight for,” which is quickly to be shown to be her kids. The slashed one’s face is healing beautifully, and they’re moving out of the house [the house HE picked] and guess what else? Sandra is preggers! Which is implied to pretty much make up for the fact that her husband’s dead. Well, one door closes, another opens!

Oh God, SO much to say. First, I often document ugly fantasies men have about women in movies, but here’s a recurrent ugly woman’s fantasy, as demonstrated by this movie: That the husband will just DIE and the mom can move into the exalted state of being a grieving widow, a “strong woman” and “perfect mom” who doesn’t ever have to have sex or live in a house someone else picked AGAIN. I don’t know, it just seems to be a theme that occurs often in movies and must be a powerful daydream for some women. It is hammered home here that Sandra regains her faith and finds “something to fight for” in her kids, making the movie kind of a statement that she had serious thoughts about whether it was worth fighting for her marriage. Her husband’s dead, sure, but that’s more than made up for having another child—ah, and I just recalled the insurance policy [in the movie] that is going to pay for all this. Kind of amazing, this bald-faced fantasy about how a husband’s death would REALLY set one free.

On the other hand, that is the only thing that is interesting about the movie. It takes up the idea that Sandra finds out her husband is dead, then has to decide if she really wants the bugger alive at all. And she struggles with it through the whole movie, and the “reveal” of the plot is her discovery that this question IS exactly what she’s struggling with. Should she save him? Should she try to fix their marriage? Does she even want to? And what small poignancy the movie has is that she seems to be trying to save the marriage, and her husband’s life, purely out of guilt. She doesn’t REALLY want to. So the movie is really about that question, should she even try to save him?

But unfortunately, the movie doesn’t do enough to set any of these issues up in the beginning for them to have much weight later. We really only have the vaguest sense that Sandra’s marriage to Jim is waning, and waning is quite different from falling apart. Let’s face it, if you’re ABOUT to have an affair, but haven’t done anything yet, the stakes aren’t really that high. We also have NO sense of Sandra’s lack of faith or belief in something to give weight to her realization that she needs to fill that vacuum later. Maybe it’s hard to convey these things when the movie is non-chronological, but I don’t think it would be impossible, and would give added significance to those matters when they arose later.

Which, unfortunately, would not make the movie any more pleasant to sit through. This is really just 90 minutes [thank GOD it’s not longer] of Sandra experiencing various shades of agony. Is this really a blast? The mystery isn’t very compelling, and there’s no way to really figure it out until it’s explained, so you just kind of watch this series of strained events unfold. It’s hard to know what kind of movie they thought they were making here.

So toward the end of this movie I was thinking “I KNOW there’s a little “making of” special on here in which Sandra comes on and talks about how the script really SPOKE to her and how this is such an experience common to all mankind and we all experience blah, blah, etc., and OH YES, it’s ALL there. The director and writer and producer and everyone come on to talk about the several deep meanings of the film, and the writer seems to be really convinced of the idea that everybody has experienced something like this in their lives: “This happens to normal everyday people.” Yes, you know, I can’t TELL you the amount of weeks in which I have lived my days out of order! SO true. Then someone comes on and says “Sandra’s NEVER done [a movie] like this before.” Oh? Or do you mean that she has done several movies EXACTLY like it? What do you call The Lake House, released just before, which is also a mystical mystery in which time gets all out of order, just skewed slightly romantic instead of slightly macabre? People in Hollywood are really from space.

Anyway, despite all this discussion, I still wouldn’t put myself through this movie if I were you. There are more rewarding ways to watch Sandra Bullock suffer.

Should you watch it: