Passion of Mind

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“Passion of Mind” benefits from a fascinating premise, a lush musical score by Randy Edelman, and a solid actress — Demi Moore — in the lead.

It suffers, however, from that same fascinating premise, which we will discuss momentarily.

Moore plays Marie, a young widow living in France with her two daughters. She has a lazy, lay-about sort of life, the sort of pleasantness that exists only in movies and dreams.

Speaking of dreams, every night when she goes to sleep, Marie dreams she’s someone else — high-powered Manhattan literary agent Martha “Marty” Talridge, living a single, unattached life of money and ease. And when Marty goes to bed at night, she dreams she’s Marie in France.

Both worlds seem so real that Marie/Marty has no idea which one is the dream world and which is her actual life. Her therapists (she has one in each place) and friends insist, of course, that THEY’RE real — but even characters in a dream would say that, obviously, so their assurances aren’t much help.

The plot thickens as Marie meets William (Stellan Skarsgard), and Marty meets Aaron (William Fichtner). Both couples (or is it a threesome?) fall in love, and Marie and Marty both tell their lovers about this mental quandary. William and Aaron are both far more understanding than is realistic: “I love you, but I also have a dream life that I think might be my REAL life (which would make YOU not real, of course), in which I’m sleeping with another man.” This would turn many men off, but not these two stalwarts.

One is inclined to think that the French life is the real one, simply because it’s the first locale shown in the movie, and it’s the first place where the possibility of the other life being imaginary is mentioned. Simply because it’s first doesn’t necessarily give it precedence, of course, but that’s the gut feeling you get in watching the film.

The problem with “Passion of Mind” is stated by both psychiatrists. The one in France (Peter Riegert) says the Manhattan life must be fake, because it’s so ideal: No family life to tie her down, money for anything she wants, able to get any man she chooses, etc. The shrink in Manhattan (Joss Ackland) says France has to be the dream world because IT’S so ideal: Picturesque country-side, loving children, a nice villa to live in, etc.

Both doctors are right: Both worlds ARE idyllic. And idyllic, frankly, is boring. For as pleasant and/or exciting as either lifestyle may seem, to actually live either one, day in and day out, would grow extraordinarily tiresome. And just WATCHING someone live either one is even less interesting than living it yourself, I’d wager.

Of course, that’s sort of the point: Whichever life is not real, the reason she’s dreaming it is as an escape from her boring real life. The conundrum is that the dream life is just as boring, in its own way, as her real one.

The film eventually becomes boring, too. By the time it’s determined which life is legit, and the reasons for Marie/Marty’s imagining the other one are established, you’re glad to find out, but it’s not any kind of emotional climax. There’s some pretty mawkish dialogue near the end between Marie and her daughters, too, which doesn’t help the already-unsatisfying resolution.

Moore is surprisingly good in her part, which is almost a dual role but not quite (both women, for all intents and purposes, have the same personality). She helps the film overcome most of its stumbling blocks, making “Passion of Mind” a literate movie, if not always a terribly fascinating one.

B- (; PG-13, some fairly strong sexuality (no explicit nudity), and mild profanity.)

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