Like an exploration of the human psyche made for the Romance Classics channel, Passion of Mind is immensely sincere, extremely tasteful and downright silly. What ultimately sinks the film isn’t the outlandish story line, but the way it’s executed. The film rests on the shoulders of its central actress and, in this case, Demi Moore (in her first starring role since going macho in 1997’s GI Jane) lacks the emotional complexity which might make this story fly.
Moore embodies two women linked by dreams. Marie lives in glorious isolation in France, inhabiting a funky but chic villa in Provence with her two daughters while writing book reviews for the New York Times on her manual typewriter. As soon as Marie falls asleep, she awakens in an equally decked-out loft as Marty, a fast-talking, stylish and relentlessly driven literary agent in New York City.
Each persona is aware of the other and discusses her dreams ad nauseam with an analyst. But since both lives are equally tangible to her, Marie-Marty can’t distinguish between reality and unconscious wish fulfillment. She’s stuck in a rut until romance enters the picture.
In New York, Aaron (William Fichtner), an accountant who can read more than numbers, becomes enamored with Marty and the fragility he sees beyond her tough exterior. In France, Marie is charmed by William (Stellan Skarsgård), a novelist whose last book received a scathing review from her. The appearance of these two men – and their demands on her – serves as the impetus to determine the truth behind her dual existence.
Buried somewhere in this convoluted, sappy tale is a commentary about the choices women are still expected to make: Should she be a selfish individualist who wholeheartedly pursues a career or a selfless caregiver and nurturing full-time mother? Ron Bass, Hollywood’s designated female-friendly screenwriter (Waiting to Exhale, The Joy Luck Club), tries to explore the superwoman syndrome and winds up with unconvincing psychobabble instead, while director Alain Berliner (Ma Vie en Rose) seems more interested in swooping shots of beautiful locales than in expressing the complicated interior life of this woman.
Demi Moore’s limited range means that her character’s state of mind is expressed primarily via hair and costume changes, but the flighty Passion of Mind is grounded by the presence of two superb character actors cast as romantic leads. Skarsgård (Breaking the Waves) and Fichtner (Albino Alligator) aren’t conventionally handsome, but both have intelligence and intensity to burn, and bring genuine passion to a film which can only imagine what that’s like.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].