Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Phenomenon (1996) [PG] ***

George Malley (John Travolta) has lived his whole life in a small California town, and now, at thirty-seven, he owns an auto service station. George is a little slow, intellectually, but his friends all love him... including his farmer friend Nate Pope (Forest Whitaker) and Doc Brunder (Robert Duvall).

Every year they all gather at the local pub to celebrate George's birthday, and this year, when George steps outside for some fresh air, he's dazzled by a brilliant white light and falls unconscious. When he wakes and returns to the party, George discovers that he's smart enough to beat Doc at chess. Over the next week, George discovers that he has a new thirst for knowledge... he's reading two books a day. Also, he has renewed energy and needs very little sleep.

Something happened to George when he experienced the white light, and now he has the intellectual capacity of a genius. But he doesn't become concerned until he discovers that he's developed telekinesis - the ability to move objects with his mind. Did George have an encounter with an alien intelligence, or is there another possibility, perhaps a more tragic one? While Doc searches for the answer, George's supernormal mental capacity allows him to perceive ultra low frequency compression waves and predict a local earthquake. It also enables him to decipher a military communications code, and the FBI is now investigating him for espionage. And, at the same time, George finds himself falling in love with Lace Pennamin (Kyra Sedgwick), a divorced mother of two pre-teen children, who's been burned before by love and is very cautious.

This is a wonderful film, straight out of the human potential movement, that explores what our lives might be like if we could somehow develop our full mental potential, rather than just the ten percent we typically use. The screenplay is inspired with some memorable dialogue. Casting, direction and soundtrack are excellent. If you enjoyed Starman and Michael - the latter also starring John Travolta - then you probably will really enjoy Phenomenon.

Labels: drama, fantasy, romance, tragedy
Internet Movie Database
Metacritic 41/100
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=59, viewers=60)

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