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"About Time" Reviewed

Richard Curtis finds true love

“About Time” is “Notting Hill” with time travel substituting for Julia Roberts. By the King of English High Concept Rom-Coms, Richard Curtis, the man who brought you “Four Weddings And A Funeral” and “Love, Actually” tells the story of an everyman Tim Lake  (Domhnall Gleeson -a Weasley in the Potter saga) who is told by his father (Bill Nighy) that Tim can travel into his own past, not unlike Billy Pilgrim from Kurt Vonnegut’s  Slaughterhouse Five but for less edifying purposes.

It’s not a good movie and I love it very much but here is why: the fantasy coincides exactly with my daydreams. My nephew and his wife, who have two children, went to see it before I did and said it was cute nothing great. And on a level that’s my assessment: the characters are very poorly drawn out, the rules governing time travel are too arbitrary to be fun and are manipulated for other purposes. For instance, if you have a child and go back in time, the child isn’t born though another is. A deus ex machina and a cheat. I would guess that my relations were indifferent to the heart of the story, a successful marriage, because it is a shallow marriage less real than the time travel fantasy.

The thing is, as a confirmed bachelor I have nothing to compare Tim’s glorious marriage to Mary (the beatific Rachel McAdams) with so it connects to a secondary fantasy with me: it is how I might IMAGINE marriage to be even though I know it isn’t like that.

Tim learns he can time travel at 21 years of age, and uses it to correct excruciatingly embarrassing moments and also to get the girl of his dreams. A sweet idea, and one of the pleasures of time travel, the Ground Hog dayiness of it, is having him return to the same moment as he fixes a mistake over and over -especially useful the first time he has sex with Mary! But the “Mary” problem is so stupid, Tim loses her number on his cell and instead of going back in time, getting a pen and paper and writing it down, he decides to meet her again under different circumstances and start from zero.

Much worse is the decision to use Nick Cave’s “Into My Arms” during a funeral: it would seem to me that time travel is absolute proof that the laws of physics are wrong and therefore if not proof, damn close to proof of an afterlife. So why use a song that denies the existence of an “interventionist God” for your death song?

Equally bad are the secondary characters. The kid sister, so central to “Notting Hill” is simply irritating here and again, Curtis is a plank: Kit Kat is in a car crash and injured but survives. Tim goes back to change the accident but discovers if he does, his daughter won’t be born (he will have a son instead) . Fair enough, but what if his beloved sister had died? It is a fake choice, it is bad news.

All the other characters are ciphers with an Uncle ripped out of David Copperfield not so hot and a mother the definition of wallpaper relegated to walk on.  And the moral of the story, “live in the moment” is nonsense of a high order, life doesn’t lend itself to second hand emotional vapidity.

Finally,  the music was, with the exception of Cave and a terrific Sugababes song, not as smart as you’d expect.  Ben Folds “The Luckiest” is the worst song on the planet today.

Still I loved the movie, it was the right fantasy for me, a double up on a daydream.

Grade: B+

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