Saturday, December 7, 2013

About Time (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

About Time

British rom / com maestro Richard Curtis (Love Actually) strikes an amiable and quirky note in "About Time" that is as infectious as it is accessible. Despite its trite device of time travel ala "Groundhog Day" or "Back to the Future", its warm simplicity and offbeat humor is hard to ignore.

Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is a very awkward college kid with a warm and bustling family in Cornwall. Tim mumbles and always manages to say the wrong thing. His bright red hair invariably seems to turn girls in the other direction. From the first shot of him alone at a party our heart goes out to him.

Abruptly it is New Years Day. Tim's academic but nonchalantly childlike dad (Bill Nighy) tells him an occult secret: the men in the family can travel through time. Though this may not be the most progressive of plot points, the information is given in an amusing and madcap fashion so the sexism falls by the wayside.

The reason or purpose of this time travel is unclear---it appears to function as a vehicle to revisit enjoyment, either with literature or altruism.

Tim is baffled, but he quickly gets the idea to use this family legacy to be a Casanova. He is struck by the friendly yet intimidatingly statuesque Charlotte (Margot Robbie). After a disastrous meeting, Tim goes into a wardrobe to rewind twenty minutes back to when he first met Charlotte. Now Tim is a smooth operator. Where he was stumbling, he is now graceful, even cocky and overconfident as he spreads sunscreen on Charlotte. These scenes are quite fun and recall something of the zany Woody Allen of long ago.

Despite Tim's manipulations, Charlotte slips away.

After his move to London, Tim gets invited to some kind of speed-date party (in pitch darkness of all implausible things ) and meets the cute and seductive voice of Mary (Rachel McAdams).

Hours later, a face to face meeting is adorably imperfect with Tim fidgeting and twitching as Mary looks on with a self-deprecating sparkle.

Kismet and karma unite. But as fate would have it, Tim gets the unfortunate urge to help his misanthropic playwright roommate (Tom Hollander) and he takes a trip into the wardrobe, so that his grumpy friend's play runs smoothly, receiving praise of genius.

Unbeknownst to Tim, his Juliet suddenly vanishes from his smartphone and he is left bereft.

You know what they say about messing with physics: you alter one wrinkle and the whole blanket of cause and effect gets bunched and knotted. Bloody hell.

Unfazed, Tim goes to a Kate Moss exhibition in the hopes of catching his quantum-crossed lover.

Tim catches her sight and some galvanism is created. However he learns that Mary is taken by the egocentric, overbearing hipster Rupert (Harry Hadden-Patton).

Tim comically goes to the wardrobe with the expediency of  Clark Kent to a phone booth, as a means to capture his Mary's heart.

Although so much time-changing and haste does not make much sense, it doesn't matter. Gleeson has such spirit in his role that it is all seamless and his politically incorrect faux pas are genuinely funny because they are done without meanness or guile. He is a Monty Python Everyboy with an open heart. McAdams does well too as the glib, perpetually surprised sweetheart.

While its true that "About Time" doesn't cause a lasting stir or fuss in the end with the time travel becoming little more than a parlor trick, the actors grow on you with more than a bit of poignance regarding father and son roles.

 There are even a few jolts with a misplaced toddler (that hits like a thriller, at first) and a very black humored meteorological event at a wedding.

"About Time" is ultimately an affectionate tease about our selfishness in wanting to capture and  possess the sequences of our events, but it is also a meditation on wanting to carry on indefinitely and how no amount of time ever, ever seems to be enough.

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