About Time (2013) – Review

3 Stars

Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is a self-described oddball, he’s too tall, too skinny, and by his reckoning too orange due to his ginger hair and pale completion. He’s the kind of unsure fellow that goes in for a handshake with a girl instead of a kiss at midnight on New Years Eve. Awakening the following morning and stewing about his lack of confidence with women, Tim is summoned downstairs for a heartfelt talk with his father (Bill Nighy). During the discussion Dad tells his son that every male in the family has the ability to time travel. Obviously Tim is skeptical, until he tries the trick and is transported back to the night before, where he takes advantage and plants a big kiss on his New Years Eve date.

From here we have the broadest outline of this quirky and quite charming English import from esteemed writer/director Richard Curtis. Nighy’s character is the Doc Brown of the tale, the guide who gives Tim the rules of time-jumping and warnings of the ramifications it may cause in real-time. He urges his son to use it for something that he truly craves, Tim decides that he will use the new-found power to obtain a girlfriend, to which his father slyly replies, “that’s major”.

Curtis writes Dickens’ size romantic drama-comedy hybrids, his too busy plot at times loses its narrative path but all in interesting ways, showcasing eccentric and often humorously dis-likable rogues. Most notably here a bitter and fame obsessed playwright (Tom Hollander) who suffers from writer’s block, but offers Tim a room for rent in the city. The two become an unlikely household and the writer’s ensuing brush with success, at the expense of Tim’s time-hopping antics, is one of the film’s repeated sources of comic inspiration.

The unfortunate casualty in this otherwise enjoyable love story is the miscalculated ‘meet-cute’ scene at a singles event hosted in the pitch black, that has to rank as one of the worst of its kind, ever. When Rachel McAdams’ Kate Moss loving character Mary emerges it’s flat. The costume designer’s have toned down the striking natural beauty of McAdams and saddled her with a frilly unflattering dress and a frumpy haircut. Why cast one of today’s most beautiful romantic comedy stars, only to attempt to make her look like Diane Keaton in a 1970’s Woody Allen movie? This distracting quibble aside, McAdams is a pro at this stuff by now, able to play these parts in her sleep. At least she looked more engaged than the sleepwalking she did through the thoroughly lame The Vow.

Thankfully this is a movie that is about more than a simple love story, it is about multiple relationships and the value of singular moments with loved ones. As the picture progress you’ll either go with Curtis’ sometime obvious emotional manipulation or be induced to sleep, I chose the former and found myself having to fight back that growing lump in the throat by film’s end.

Director: Richard Curtis
Stars: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy

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