[Screen It]


(1998) (Victoria Foyt, Stephen Dillane) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate None Heavy None None
Minor None None None Heavy
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild Minor Mild Mild None

Drama: An engaged woman and a married man try to sort out a potential relationship as they believe that fate has brought them together.
Dana (VICTORIA FOYT) is an American on business in Israel who meets an older French woman by chance. While Dana explains that she's been engaged for six years, this woman proceeds to tell her a story about the perfect love of her life who gave her a broach, promised to break up with his high-society girlfriend, but then disappeared forever. This woman then does the same, leaving Dana with the broach and need to return it to her.

Unable to find her, Dana sets off for London where her fiancé, Alex (MICHAEL BRANDON), awaits her arrival for their pre-wedding "honeymoon." Inexplicably, she stops off to see the White Cliffs of Dover where she happens to meet Sean (STEPHEN DILLANE) a painter and architect. The two immediately feel that they've known each other for years and quickly fall in love. Dana, however, feels uncomfortable and heads off to stay with Alex and some friends of the family.

There, she meets Sean again, but discovers that he's married to Claire (GLYNIS BARBER) and that they're all staying at the same house. As the two find themselves in an awkward situation, Dana must decide whether to be like her host's carefree sister, Skelly (VANESSA REDGRAVE) and head off with Sean, or lead a calm, reserved life and settle down with Alex.

It's not very likely.
For language, brief sexuality and a scene of drug use.
  • VICTORIA FOYT and STEPHEN DILLANE play an engaged woman and married man who have an affair after meeting.
  • VANESSA REDGRAVE plays an older, carefree woman who believes that one has to "go with the flow" of life in order to be happy.


    OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
    It has long been debated whether people operate from their own free will or that every moment in their lives is predetermined by some greater force. Most of us prefer to think that we control our own destinies. In the back of our heads, and especially pertaining to romance, however, there's the fun notion that sometimes things are just "meant to be."

    Thus, the inherent interest in "Déjà Vu," a romantic drama that plays off that latter notion. Unfortunately, the film uses a large and heavy mallet to get that point across and, not surprisingly, it flattens any sort of romantic fun the movie could -- and should -- have offered.

    Instead, director Henry Jaglom ("Last Summer in the Hamptons"), working with his co-writer, leading lady, and spouse in real life, Victoria Foyt, has opted to make the film exceedingly chatty with each "specialized" character telling their necessary story, fable, or other narrative element that encourages or dissuades the main characters' behavior.

    While that could have worked if handled more subtly, Jaglom and Foyt have made such moments so blatantly obvious and directly tied to the protagonists' story arc that a) it's insulting to the audience's intelligence and b) it's about as boring and trite as one could imagine. Existential discussions abound, but whereas such moments work in other films -- such as "The Big Chill" where those conversations naturally follow a thought invoking catalyst -- here they're convenient, forced, and so artificial that they nearly (but unfortunately don't) become surrealistically absurd.

    The way in which this is so casually presented is what also derails the production. A film dealing with events that are out of our control needs that surrealistic touch -- be it eerie or magical -- but this film offers neither until the very end when it's too late. The same goes for the moments where the two destined loves keep bumping into each other. Instead of blind luck or fate bringing the two together, those scenes only feel like the result of several screenwriters' manipulative efforts to force the story along.

    To make matters worse -- although it nearly, but certainly unintentionally creates its own surreal atmosphere -- the film's technical merits are awful. The sound and sound editing are handled terribly with it being quite obvious that exchanges of dialogue were recorded on different "takes" (ie. The background sounds change during a conversation when one or the other party speaks).

    Like the choppy sound editing (where bits of dialogue are nearly chopped off), the visual editing (done by Jaglom) is surprisingly bad. Scenes, and cuts within scenes randomly occur (ruining the predetermined qualities) and Jaglom constantly zooms and pans the camera around without any apparent reason (other than the ability to do so). To exacerbate the problems, the "extras" in the outdoor scenes either stare at the camera as it passes them by (as we follow a character down the street), or noticeably step out of the way to avoid being run over. Not only does all of that distract the audience from the plot, but it also gives the film an extremely low budget look -- something akin to a first-year film school project.

    Hampered by existential, "on the nose" dialogue, the performers don't fare much better. Had the film unfolded on a surrealistic playing field, the awful exchanges might have been easier to swallow. As presented, however, they come off even worse. Foyt ("Last Summer in the Hamptons") and Stephen Dillane ("Welcome To Sarajevo") try to do their best with what they've been given, but their moments together are flat and lacking in any sustained conflict to their pending relationship, as well as the "magic" needed to make the story work. Likewise, Vanessa Redgrave -- who's been so wonderful in the past and in the recent "Mrs. Dalloway -- seems more like a Grecian muse intended to impart essential information instead of a real life character.

    While the plot tries to get clever at the end and wrap everything up in a "Twilight Zone" type fashion, by the time that twisting finale rolls around -- and we've been pummeled by the "mallet of obviousness" -- we don't really care anymore. While less (and we really mean less) discerning viewers may find the ending romantic, nearly everyone else will find it insultingly manipulative. Without any sustained magic or obstacles in the way of the story's predetermined relationship, there's little here to root for and/or enjoy. Thus, we give "Déjà Vu" a 3 out of 10.

    While it's doubtful many kids will want to see this film, here's a quick summary should someone in your home wish to see it. The two main characters have bad attitudes since they have an affair (and blame it solely on "fate"), and although we don't see them having sex, we do see them before and afterwards (when we briefly see the side of her breast). Profanity is limited, but heavy with 3 "f" words and an assortment of others, and beyond some social drinking, one character briefly smokes a joint. Beyond that, most of the other categories have little or no objectionable material.

  • We see some liquor bottles at a bar, but nobody drinking any.
  • Alex comments to Dana that the older couple they're staying with had a lot to drink a previous night.
  • The whole group has coffee and after-dinner drinks (brandy, etc...) in front of them on a coffee table.
  • Alex briefly smokes a joint and offers it to Dana, but she declines.
  • Sean has a beer in front of him at an outdoor table (as does another man).
  • Claire has a glass of wine.
  • None.
  • Dana and Sean have both as they carry out an affair despite her being engaged and him being married.
  • The man in the story told by the older French woman, who promised to come back to her but never did, has both.
  • Skelly tells her elderly mother that her son (Skelly's brother) wants her to stay with him, but her brother hasn't agreed to that yet.
  • Dana has both for not telling Alex (after they had a brief disagreement in a street market) that she's going with Sean, thus leaving her fiancé searching for her in a crowded market.
  • None.
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Shut up," "Bloody" (British adjective), and "Pissed off."
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • 3 "f" words, 1 "s" word, 1 damn, 1 hell, and 16 uses of "Oh my God," 5 uses of "God" and 3 uses each of "My God" and "Oh God" as exclamations.
  • Alex wants to have sex with Dana who's just arrived (and briefly rolls her around the bed -- they're clothed), but nothing happens.
  • Dana and Sean passionately kiss on several occasions. During a later, and longer scene, they kiss and we then see them in bed after they've had sex (we don't see any of that). During this time, we briefly see the side of her bare breast.
  • We see Dana in her bra (with some cleavage) as she changes tops.
  • We see a sketch (charcoal-like) on Sean's wall of a nude woman (with bare breasts).
  • Skelly smokes once.
  • Some people smoke in the background of several scenes.
  • Sean and Claire's marriage is shaky after she learns of his affair with Dana.
  • Skelly and her brother briefly talk about what to do with their elderly mother.
  • Dana briefly gets word that her father's in the hospital, but it turns out to be a false alarm.
  • Whether people's lives are predetermined, or whether they have free will.
  • Love at first sight, and whether that really exists.
  • The message that this film gives stating that it's okay to have an affair and dump your spouse or fiancé if you believe that you've met the person predetermined for you (ie. Love at first sight).
  • None.

  • Reviewed June 5, 1998

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