Studio: Working Title Films/ Universal
Writer/ Director: Richard Curtis
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy
Running Time: 2 Hours, 3 Minutes (some of which are done over again)
Plot: At the age of 21, Tim Lake’s father informs him that all men in his family have the ability to travel in time throughout their own lives. In attempting to make his life better for himself by getting a girlfriend he initially discovers complications.
I have been on a streak of high quality movie releases recently, with the high bar of initially set by Prisoners, followed by Fruitvale Station, The Spectacular Now, Rush, Captain Phillips, Gravity, and All is Lost. So its ‘About Time’ a movie lowers the bar a little.
“About Time” isn’t an exhibition in expert filmmaking, but instead settles in as relaxing, sentimental fluff. Writer-director Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Pirate Radio) knows what he’s aiming for here and hits his targets. This is a beautifully shot, light-hearted and emotional film that plays well without wearing out its premise, though there were certain times I was ready to walk out of theatre.
Tim Lake (played by Domhnall Gleason), the lead protagonist, is quite a boring character. There isn’t much that distinguishes him from a normal person or makes him a compelling character to root for. He doesn’t seem to have any flaws or strengths, which other than landing in some awkward situations, makes him seem weak.
Aside from his father (played by the lively Bill Nighy, pronounced Nye) the other characters in the film are never really more than one-dimensional. Surprisingly, leading lady Rachel McAdams also fails to add dimensionality to her under-written role, despite having cornered the time travelling rom-com market with previous efforts Midnight In Paris and Time Traveller’s Wife. The other people in the movie don’t feel like they exist outside Tim’s world let alone the movie’s world.
The biggest weakness this film carries; which is attuned to its premise working against it, is that there are never any serious consequences for the characters in the film, this may be a move to make the film as light-hearted as possible, but as a result there are never any serious stakes that build a central conflict. Everything just goes on.
On a positive note, there are some genuinely laugh out loud moments that rate it a cut above typical rom-com efforts. And while he may underwrite beautiful, vivacious Canadian lead actresses, Richard Curtis has a talent for writing genuine dialogue that feels fresh and non-contrived. As well, the actors all seem to be playing stereotypical versions of themselves , which works well for the genre as everyone seems to know their role within the movie. Unfortunately, the task of editing a time travel film seems to upend the work of the actors, as the tone shifts from sappy to serious to funny to sentimental which gives off a confusing inconsistent vibe.
Consensus: This is a feel good film with some genuine heart, brought down by uninspired genre tropes and lack of ambition but uplifted now and then by decent performances and a few bright moments. Overall this makes for a light, pleasing and undemanding recommendation.
*mini spoiler alert —
There is a scene around the second act of the film that encapsulates this film well: Tim has just run into his first love (Margot Robbie/Hottie from the upcoming Wolf of Wall Street) who turned him down previously but now for no specific reason is into him. After some loitering outside her room, Tim is invited in, but eventually rejects her overtures, even knowing he could time-travel back before the romp and comfortably return to his life with Rachel McAdams none the wiser. I assume this was done to make sure the audience will still root for him as the honest, good-hearted man, but considering Domhnall Gleeson is a weak leading man, it seems like a missed opportunity to add some spice to the character and story.
- This was Richard Griffith’s (Mr. Dursley) last movie before his unfortunate death at the hands of a rogue dementor
- “Who’s that girl?” Zooey Deschanel was originally cast as female lead but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts
- Domhnall Gleeson is the eldest son of Irish actor Brendan Gleeson, they appeared together in the Harry Potter series as Bill Weasley and aged auror and paranoid professor Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody respectively. Brendan is also known for his roles in 28 Days Later, In Bruges, and as the mo-cap peach in James and the Giant Peach.