Friday, October 7, 2011

Try to Remember: The Amnesia Trilogy. Part 1: WRECKED

"You should see the other guy!"

To Merriam-Webster Online, amnesia means the following:


noun \am-ˈnē-zhə\
1: loss of memory due usually to brain injury, shock, fatigue, repression, or illness
2: a gap in one's memory

But to film fans, amnesia means a surefire way to plunge a movie's main character into a tailspin of paranoia and suspense! For the next three weeks, starting today, I'll be spotlighting three amnesia-driven thrillers from three different decades. Let's kick things off with the newest of these films first, Wrecked, released earlier this year by IFC Midnight.
…You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile….
…You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?
“Once in a Lifetime,” Talking Heads
Objects in the rear-view mirror may be more painful than they appear!
Those of you who’ve been reading TotED for a while know that I rarely blog about movies made after 1980, unless it’s a film that’s really set up housekeeping in my heart and gut. The only post-1980 films I’ve discussed in these pages were 1996’s Independence Day (for Team Bartilucci’s disaster film double-feature back in April), and 2007’s No Country for Old Men (as a birthday tribute to my late mom back in January, since we both loved the film). However, director Michael Greenspan’s 2011 psychological survival thriller Wrecked, starring my favorite contemporary actor, Oscar-winner Adrien Brody (for the fact-based 2003 drama The Pianist), is so compelling that I want to recommend it to all of you now—why wait? Besides, as dear friend and fellow blogger ClassicBecky said when I was a guest at our own Clara Fercovic’s wonderful blog Via Margutta 51: “You know I’m also a 13-year-old with a ponytail about Adrien!” Becky, you’re in good company, believe me! (Click here for my Via Margutta 51 guest appearance, including my anecdote about Adrien Brody’s kindness to my daughter and me at New York Comic Con 2010.) 
“Are we friends, George?” With friends like dead bank robbers, who needs enemies?

Not the kind of “rapid transit” our hero had in mind!
Splendor in the grass? Not so much.
If you thought you woke up on the wrong side of the bed today, just be grateful you’re not in Adrien Brody’s shoes as Wrecked’s unnamed protagonist. He wakes up to find himself the pain-racked sole survivor of a horrific car crash! (Nice touch: we see the red insides of our awakening protagonist’s eyelids before he actually opens his eyes.) The Man, as Brody is billed in the credits, is bloody and bruised, with his nose and his right leg broken. His knees are trapped under the dashboard of a silver-gray Chevy. All he can figure out about his location is that it’s somewhere in a huge, dense forest (played by the beautiful Pacific Northwest), including a raging river that momentarily buffets our startled hero about the rapids; bah, wilderness! Oh, and did I mention there’s a bloody corpse in the back seat, apparently buckled in, and the windshield has been smashed, very likely from yet another passenger being thrown through the glass? On top of that, it becomes increasingly clear that our man is suffering from a concussion, resulting in amnesia. Well, how did he get here? And how the hell can he get out of here, preferably alive?

Our guy has a much-needed laugh and epiphany: “I hate mint!”
Brody gives a tour de force performance as our emotionally and physically persecuted man. His organic acting style is perfect for Wrecked; he always comes across as if he’s living in the moment, never hamming it up. When his character is hurt onscreen, you find yourself hurting along with him amid the sheer loneliness and frustration of his surreal ordeal. It helps that Brody has always been especially good at acting with his eyes; you can really read the emotions in those silver-sage orbs of his. Frankly, I couldn’t help wincing and whimpering at our beleaguered protagonist’s every ache and pain as he tries to move and make sense of his nightmarish situation. (Just thank your lucky stars that this blog post didn’t consist solely of me constantly whimpering, “Oh, nooo! Poor Brody! Poor baby!” or “Ooooh, poor boo-boo Adrien!”)

...“Goner,” if he can’t get out of this fix!
Greenspan and newbie screenwriter Christopher Dodd really sweat the small details of our man’s ordeal. When he isn’t fading in and out of consciousness, he becomes so hungry that even a mint on the car floor looks good to him—and being unable to reach that mint has him as maddeningly frustrated as if he was grasping for gold in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The excellent work of Greenspan, Dodd, and Brody’s compelling performance truly makes you feel his world shrinking to the size of the car’s interior. And yet even in this dire situation, they manage to slip in nuggets of wry comedy relief. One of my favorite bits: our hero finds he’s able to start the car enough to hear its radio, and…well, you may never listen to Tiny Tim’s rendition of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” quite the same way ever again (presuming you can pry it out of your head at all!). Even our suffering hero manages to crack a smile! I’m guessing our guy stumbled across a Dr. Demento broadcast.

Oh, shoot! Bad man, or scared man?
Trail-mix-toting angel of mercy, or devilish hallucination?
Our hero’s physical condition improves bit by bit, and gradually he’s able to cobble together a makeshift splint for his injured leg. He also manages to find a couple of credit cards in the car, one with the name “Raymond Plazzy” embossed on it, the other sporting the name “George Weaver.” Too bad neither name rings a bell with our frustrated fella. He becomes grateful for little things, like managing to catch some rainwater to drink from the car’s ashtray (some of it splashes onto his face, too, cleaning him up a tad so we can see more of Brody’s angularly winsome punim). When he finds a cell phone later (which might be his, or might belong to the dead men), it doesn’t work, what with the deep woods location and later, his rapids ride. But at least he finds an OTC pain reliever in the wreckage to dull his considerable aches and pains. Greenspan and Dodd even went to the trouble of showing our full-bladdered protagonist *ahem* relieving himself during his forced captivity in the wrecked car. The promise of seeing more of Brody may intrigue those of us who are warm for Brody’s form as well as his fine acting, but sorry, folks, his bathroom break is only heard, not seen!

Desperation gives “money to burn” new meaning.
A boy and his possibly imaginary dog  
See, he’s a good boy! The dog’s cute, too!
Our hero’s odyssey gets odder when he spots an attractive brunette, played by Canadian actress Caroline Dhavernas, who played private eye Brody’s blonde Girl(friend) Friday in the 1950s-set docu-noir Hollywoodland, about Superman actor George Reeves’ mysterious death. Our man is so overcome with gratitude at seeing another human being—with a plastic bag of trail mix, no less—just feeling the woman’s face melts our man into tears of joy and relief, sobbing, “So warm. So warm.” The woman soothingly says, “Everything’s going to be all right now. I promise.” And then he wakes up! Aw, man! (Is it me, or does Brody’s face look like a tragedy mask when he cries? I’ve noticed that about him in other films, too, like The Pianist, The Jacket, and The Brothers Bloom. As far as I’m concerned, Brody’s still got a cute face even when he’s all sad and anguished, so there! But I digress….) Then a brown dog with a husky/shepherd build comes along. Is he a good dog? A bad dog? Or just another figment of our beleaguered, concussed protagonist’s imagination? The dog and the woman seem so real, only to periodically appear and disappear just when our guy thinks maybe he’s not hallucinating. Comfort and hope morph into despair, then back again. On top of that, the image of a frightened bank teller who looks like the woman flashes into our poor mixed-up guy’s mind. Is this what Nick Lowe, one of my favorite singer/songwriters, meant by “Cruel to be Kind”? Still, it’s nice to see Brody and Dhavernas together again onscreen. Judging from their chemistry in Hollywoodland, I wish they'd team up again onscreen, maybe for a more lighthearted movie, like a witty romantic comedy-thriller. (This is why Team Bartilucci needs to run the world! But again, I digress….)

“Ants on a log?” Would you settle for ants on a dashboard? Where’s Andrew Zimmern when you need him?
One day, our guy is cutting off the seat belts so he can use them to keep his makeshift splint in place. The radio broadcasts a news update about escaped bank robbers wanted in connection with the deaths of a female teller and a security guard. They were last seen in a silver-gray Chevy, and the bad men in question are named Eric Stapleton…and George Weaver…and Raymond Plazzy! When our fella manages to check the trunk, sure enough, there’s a whole bunch of money inside. But a man wearing hunting/survival gear and carrying a high-powered rifle apparently robs him and runs off. Is he another figment of our guy’s confused imagination and jigsaw memory? Is our hero in fact a villain? Yikes! Say it isn’t so! Say it’s just exhaustion and his scrambled memory messing with him. Or perhaps the filmmakers are messing with us? But one thing’s for sure: Wrecked sure keeps us viewers on our toes! Life is too short for a terrific film like Wrecked to wait for years or even decades to earn its classic status—check it out on DVD and Blu-Ray now!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In a final flashback sequence, our protagonist learns/remembers his name: Simon. Apparently the woman is either Simon’s wife or girlfriend. They’d had some kind of unspecified spat in their car, and then Simon went inside a store. When he came out, the woman was sitting on a bench waiting for him. He opens his mouth as if he’s about to apologize or explain whatever they were arguing about, but whatever it was went by the wayside after Simon is unlucky enough to get in the way of the escaping bank robbers, who promptly take him hostage, then burn rubber escaping while the horrified woman screams out Simon’s name. Eventually, on a mountain road, Simon manages to wrest the steering wheel away from the robbers, the car goes out of control, and you know the rest! Luckily, he's rescued by forest rangers. Simon asks about his dog, and the ranger says he didn't have one. (Wonder if he and his honey will get one once they get home?)

Cougar on the prowl, and we don’t mean Courtney Cox!

Go green: recycle dead homicidal bank robbers as cougar chow!
"Hi, hon, it's me, Simon. My captors are dead and I need a lift. Can you come to the middle of nowhere and get me? Thanks, you're the ginchiest!"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Extra special bonus photos for those of you who'd rather see Adrien Brody looking happy and charming instead of miserable and disheveled:
Yes, this is a real dog!  Not the movie, smarty!
Photo taken in Central Park by Brody's renowned photographer mom Sylvia Plachy

Beyond the forest, nicely-groomed stubble!
Look at that winning smile!


  1. Not to take the emphasis off of Mr. Brody, but the concept of the movie reminded me of (of all things!) an episode of "Duck Tales" the kids watched when they were small. Uncle Scrooge McDuck had wandered off and was not quite himself. A lady duck in hair curlers announced, "I've watched enough soap operas in my life to recognize amnesia when I see it!"

    Oh yes, I agree - Team Bartilucci should rule the world.

  2. Thanks, Caftan Woman! We of Team B. absolutely adore DUCK TALES, and I seem to recall the amnesia episode with the lady in curlers (it's been a while, so forgive me if I'm a little vague on the specific details) Thanks to you, Donald Duck has become a running theme here! :-) C.W., you shall have a high position in Team Bartilucci's Cabinet should we end up running the world! :-)

  3. I seem to be a blank slate on this film's release!

    BUT you make it sound intriguing and will check it out, if I don't forget.

    Always entertaining Dorian!

  4. John, thanks for your witty comments regarding WRECKED; always nice to end the evening on a charmingly droll note! :-) WRECKED was released on March 31, 2011 at Manhattan's IFC Center. Alas, living in NE PA, I never got the opportunity to see it in the theater as God intended. Happily, WRECKED is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray (heck, I got mine from Walmart!), so if you decide to check it out, I think you'll find it's 90 minutes well-spent. If not, I'm perfectly happy to graciously debate any pros or cons you might have! :-) Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed reading my WRECKED post, John; thanks so much for your praise!

  5. Hi Dorian, fellow Brody groupie. I have short hair now, or it would have been tied into a ponytail for this. I have not seen Wrecked yet, and I'm not sure how I missed it. I couldn't tell what year it was made. That can make a difference considering things that have happened over the last few years. Anyway, you know his face does look like the tragedy mask when he cries! And his eyes are extremely emotive, a rare talent.

    I like character-driven stories as well as suspense, and this certainly applies for both. Your captions were funny, but I think I got my biggest laugh from "bah, wilderness"! I love literary allusions that come unexpectedly in a groaner joke! Good one!

    Actually my favorite part of your piece was a short description that packed a big wallop of pathos: "The dog and the woman seem so real, only to periodically appear and disappear just when our guy thinks maybe he’s not hallucinating. Comfort and hope morph into despair, then back again." Beautifully put, and made me feel the sadness of that kind of plight.

    I may know the ending (I HAD to read the spoiler), but as I told friend Tom at The Old Movie House, I've watched many movies many times that I already know by heart, so that won't stop me! Really entertaining post, Dorian, with an actor we both would fight over if necessary! (But hey, you've got Vinnie, so I get first dibs!)

  6. Dorian, Have not seen this flick so I'll take your word on it. But lets see you got a Talking Heads, DR D, and Nick Lowe reference all in one I'm impressed. "Stay Demented". BTW I love Cruel To Be"" from Nicks (really it's early Rockpile)Lp Labour Of Lust. Has one of David Edmunds pat.pending classic guitar solos.

  7. Becky, as always, you're a gal after my own heart! Thanks so much for your kind words about my WRECKED post! Like you, I can watch my favorite movies again and again without getting the least bit tired of them. Admittedly, the more familiar we are with a beloved film, the more likely we are to good-naturedly kid it when we watch it at home, a la MST3K, unless we have visitors who've never seen the film. We let them watch the film uninterrupted first (well, as uninterrupted as our cheerfully boisterous household ever gets :-)). Of course, once they get to know and love the film in question, they get into the MST3K swing of things from then on!

    WRECKED was filmed in 2010 and released in theaters this year in limited release by IFC Midnight. I suspect that if it had been made by a major studio instead of being an indie production, it would have been in every multiplex in town. That said, one of the things I've always liked about Adrien Brody is that he has a reputation of deliberately taking the path less traveled-by if the material really grabs him. I bet it drives his agent crazy! :-)

    I'm also pleased that you were moved by our hero's plight while also enjoying my little captions and asides, especially "bah, wilderness!" It's not often that I get to tip my hat to AH, WILDERNESS, Barney the Bear (one of the few critters that DIDN'T turn up somewhere in WRECKED :-)) and S.J. Perelman (one of my favorite funny writers ever) in one fell swoop! :-)

    Thanks a million for your feedback, Becks! You've started my morning and weekend off right! :-)

  8. Paul 2, considering that you too are a fan of Dr. Demento, Talking Heads, and Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds as Rockpile (along with all their other musical permutations; those fellas get around!), you're a regular Renaissance Man! :-) I applaud your excellent taste in music and movies. Thanks for joining the conversation; feel free to drop by TotED anytime!

  9. Dorian, you might like this true story about the good Dr. D. I was working my way thru school a record store in Torrance CA, when a rival store opened a store 4 doors down from our store. DR. D had just put of his first ""Hits" LP out on if I remember right Warner Bros Records.and was doing in store promos in the So. Cal area to promote it.
    Anyway he wound up at the rivals store for a promo and a group of us took our promo copy of the Lp down for him to sign. Needless to say the other stores staff was "Not Amused " but Dr. D loved it.

  10. Paul 2, I loved your Dr. Demento anecdote! I can just imagine the looks on the rivals' faces! Thanks for sharing! :-)

  11. While reading your wonderful and entertaining post, Dorian, the plot reminded me of a terrific Dick Francis book, SMOKESCREEN. Here the hero is trapped inside a car in the South African wilderness - all alone, as is Adrien in WRECKED. All alone and no one to help him. But he hasn't been in an accident, instead the villain has handcuffed him to the steering wheel and left him to die. It is HARROWING. A thrilling read.

    I may see WRECKED one of these days when I'm in the mood for a gut-wrenching thriller. I wish, just once, Adrien would do a movie with a light and happy ending. He would be so good at a 1930's type screwball detective yarn. Know the type I mean? He would be wonderful as one half of Mr. and Mrs. North mystery duo. :)

    He just looks so wretched in that WRECKED photo. Jeez.

  12. Yvette, I'm glad you enjoyed my WRECKED post, even if, like me, your heart went out to Adrien Brody's character looking and feeling so wretched! :-) That's why I put several nice, upbeat pictures of him on the very end of the blog post, to perk up Brody fans like us! :-)

    The heck of it is that our Adrien actually has a great flair for comedy, as he's shown in Woody Allen's recent movie MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (he steals his scene as a young, dashing Salvador Dali); THE BROTHERS BLOOM; THE DARJEELING LIMITED; DUMMY; the 1994 remake of ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD; THE UNDERTAKER'S WEDDING; and scene-stealing funny scenes in the otherwise straight-faced THE AFFAIR OF THE NECKLACE and Dennis Potter's THE SINGING DETECTIVE. I agree with you that our man Brody would be delightful in a MR. & MRS. NORTH or THIN MAN-type comedy-mystery, perhaps with WRECKED's Caroline Dhavernas (she had a nice insouciant manner), or ever better, Rachel Weisz, who had great romantic comedy chemistry with Brody in THE BROTHERS BLOOM!

    Yvette, you've also got me intrigued about the Dick Francis novel SMOKESCREEN! He's another author I've been wanting to catch up with (the spirit is willing; I just need to organize my time better so I can read more!)! Thanks for the tip!

  13. Hey, gang, we have three awesome new Followers here at TotED! For anyone here who doesn't already know these wonderful fellow bloggers, check them out on their following links:

    1.) Paul 2, who also has superb taste in movies and music:

    2.) MatLee of MatLee Reviews:

    3.) Prashant C. Trikannad

    Welcome, all of you! Jump into the conversation any time!

  14. Hey, gang, I'm posting a comment here from our ever-charming friend and fellow blogger Emm of THE STUPENDOUSLY AMAZINGLY COOL WORLD OF OLD TV! But let Emm explain in her own words:

    "I've been having a doozie of a time trying to comment at TotED seems that those comment boxes that appear right on the page refuse to work for me (I have the same problem at a couple of other blogs). BUT, the pop-out boxes like the ones here work just fine. Anyhow, I LOVED your post about Wrecked and I'm looking forward to the next post in the Amnesia series!"

    Emm, I'm so glad you enjoyed my WRECKED post, and so sorry you're having trouble with the comment boxes! I used to have the same problem, especially with Blogger and StumbleUpon, until I started using Mozilla Firefox. If you (or anyone else here) ever find yourself unable to leave comments here at TotED, you're always welcome to e-mail your response to me at I'll gladly "cut-and-paste" your comment here. Auntie Dorian is always happy to help! :-)

    By the way, the next installment of the Amnesia Trilogy will be MIRAGE (1965), starring Gregory Peck. Don't forget! :-)

  15. Wow Mirage, really? Too Cool. I'm going to be up for that.

  16. Thanks, Paul 2, I hope you'll enjoy it! I'll do my best to make The Amnesia Trilogy unforgettable! (Surely you saw that coming! :-))

  17. Dorian, BTW the link you put under me is not me. I'm at classic film tv I pulled down all my old stuff from The Turner CFU and all my best music posts where at the big black disc which has been closed.

  18. Paul 2, sorry about the confusion with your links! I was working from the info I saw in your Blogger page when I clicked on "Paul 2." Thanks for the update. Moving forward, I'll use the link you indicated above when recommending folks to check you out. Thanks!

  19. Mirage?! Really?!? I was wondering if you'd review that film! (The Gregory Peck fangirl in me is very excited.)

    And thanks ever so for the Firefox tip! I'm still a bit of a die-hard IE person, but with Blogger being odd, it's infinitely preferable!

  20. Emm, I should have known you'd love MIRAGE as much as we do here at Team Bartilucci H.Q. -- Gregory Peck is the man (no disrespect intended toward this week's TotED star Adrien Brody :-))! If you're excited now, you'll be thrilled to know that The Amnesia Trilogy will actually have two Gregory Peck movies in a row: after MIRAGE, the trilogy will wrap up on October 21st with Alfred Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND!

    In the meantime, your Auntie Dorian has a little bonus for you as a friend and fellow Gregory Peck fan: one of my earliest TotED blog posts, a review of Peck's 1969 thriller THE CHAIRMAN. Hope you enjoy it! Here's the link:

  21. Sorry, Dorian. In spite of the praises you sing of Mr. Brody, he'll have a long way to go before he overshadows James Garner in MISTER BUDDWING.

  22. Michael, my friend, I'll admit that James Garner is a tough act to follow; there's no question he's a Team Bartilucci favorite! However, I feel that Garner and Adrien Brody can peacefully co-exist in a fictional amnesia universe. :-)

    I must confess, however, that while I like Garner's performance in MISTER BUDDWING very much, and the performances and New York locations are excellent, I'm afraid I've always felt that the script was a bit muddy and confused. Granted, Garner's character is rather confused himself, being amnesiac and all, but sometimes the writing felt disjointed. To be fair, it's been many years since I've watched MISTER BUDDWING from start to finish. Perhaps I should keep an eye on TCM and give it another chance one of these days.

    As always, Michael, whether we agree or disagree, I'm always happy to have you join in the TotED conversation! Y'all come back now, you hear? I'm keeping MIRAGE and SPELLBOUND simmering on the stove for you! :-)

  23. "The script was a bit muddy and confused". Perhaps that's why I like the movie: I identify with it.

  24. Michael, thinking back, I'll admit I've very much enjoyed my share of muddy, confused films myself. The all-star 1967 comedy version of CASINO ROYALE, a.k.a. "The Worst Film I Ever Enjoyed," leaps to mind -- but that's a topic for another time! :-)

  25. Dorian,
    I said I would watch Wrecked before commenting so now I feel comfy joining in. I gathered a couple of friends to watch it with me since I'm hopped up on sinus meds right now, Considering it is one of those amnesia films I thought it might get a bit weird or confusing, giving me the 'crazies' as most of this type do.

    I'll just point out the things that caught my attention. I was really hating on Brody's character (did we ever learn his name?)when I thought he was a bank robber. So I was relieved to find out he was an innocent victim, hostage.
    Although I commented early on that his attire didn't match for what we assumed he had done. Button downs and sweaters don't necessarily spell 'thug'.

    As soon as I saw the dead guy in the trees I told my friends "If a wild animal starts eating on him I am going to hurl, that would be awful"
    I was so disturbed by that and then when the mountain lion dragged the guy out of the car I flew off of the couch! GROSS!

    Lastly, I've been trying to find good moss to fill in a rock area walkway I'm working on and it's non existent here where I live. So I've been looking online for weeks for some reasonably priced moss to get as filler. Every time they showed a scene with lots of pretty moss (there was a lot) I would say "Oh, look at all of that moss" My friends said "If you say that one more time we're leaving". Sawwrrrry!

    I really enjoyed the film and waiting to read your review until I saw it was worth the wait. I really enjoyed your review Dorian and thanks for introducing me to a great film I probably would have missed.
    (still on drugs so I hope this made since because it did to me in my altered state. Oh, look a wild dog in my dining room)

  26. Page, I'm so sorry your sinuses are bothering you (I truly sympathize; I've been there!), so I'm extra grateful that you were kind enough to spend some of your convalescence watching WRECKED, and that you had positive things to say about it! Watching WRECKED with friends is always a good way to go. :-)

    I don't blame you for "hating on Brody's character" when it seemed he was an evil homicidal bank robber. Part of me moaned, "Noooo! Adrien Brody's character CAN'T be a bad guy -- especially in that sweater. L.L. Bean doesn't have a Bank Robber wardrobe line!" So I got a kick out of seeing that you and I were thinking more or less along the same lines. As you aptly put it, "Button-downs and sweaters don't necessarily spell 'thug'," especially in the reportedly serene Pacific Northwest! :-)

    Oh yes, in the Spoiler Alert I added at the end (see the red print), we finally find out that our beleaguered hero's name is Simon; indeed, his significant other (Caroline Dhavernas) screams "Simon!" as the bad men kidnap him. Everything happened so fast in that scene, so I can understand if you missed a thing or two, especially with your poor hurting sinuses, you poor gal!

    I agree, the scene near the end with the cougar freaked me out a little, too, though I'd say that bank robber had it coming; he's much more useful to society as cougar chow! :-) And ILOL over your obsession with moss while you watched the movie! Being "Easily Distracted" myself, I can relate! :-)

    Page, thanks a million for your kind words and for taking the time to watch WRECKED and comment about it! Hugs to you and yours from Team B., and feel better soon!

    P.S.: Still LOL over "Oh look, a wild dog in my dining room"!

  27. Loved the movie .. But ..
    1. How did the car get so deep into the woods after the crash ?
    2. Why didn't the "man" simply follow the tire tracks back to the road ?