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Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Movie Review: ABOUT TIME

Director: Richard Curtis
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson, Lindsay Duncan, Tom Hollander, Richard Griffiths

It is safe to say that both Richard Curtis and Rachel McAdams are known for the rom-coms. He has written Love Actually, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings and a Funeral. She has made audiences weep in The Notebook, The Vow, and The Time Traveler's Wife. Why has it taken this long for the two of them to work together? On his 21st birthday, Tim (Gleeson) learns an old family secret from his dad (Nighy) that the men in the family have the ability to travel back in time. They can only travel back to some point in their own lifetime. There is no going back to the medieval times nor can they go party with the Beatles. Tim is highly skeptical until he goes into his wardrobe, clenches his fists, and finds himself back at the New Year’s Eve party where he musters the courage to actually kiss the girl at midnight.

Tim is a bit dorky and realizes he can’t just travel back in time to make any random girl fall in love with him. If the girl seems interested in him to begin with, that is another story. While in London working as a lawyer he meets Mary (McAdams) one night in a “dark” themed restaurant. There seems to be a mutual connection between the two of them but she has to leave before they can really spend the night together. Tim’s playwright roommate (Hollander) informs him of the wretched opening night of his newest play that will inevitable ruin his career. Tim goes back in time to make sure the play goes off without a hitch. Unfortunately, that changes the events leading up to how he met Mary. He learns the hard way after showing up at a photography exhibit where she has no idea who he is. As you can tell by the trailer, he takes a few different trips back in time to learn more about her to place him at just the right moment where she will be enamored by him and they can live happily ever after. That’s not really a huge spoiler as Tim learns when and how he will use this power to “rumble, stumble, and tumble” his way through time, love, and life.

When you have a film about time travel, you have to just suspend your belief in reality for a bit and just go with it. If you can’t do that, there is no way to enjoy a story like this. Rachel McAdams must love the whimsical feel films like these have as this is her third movie involving time travel after The Time Traveler’s Wife and Midnight in Paris, yet she never gets to do any of the time traveling herself. Curtis uses this special ability as a story enhancer but does not make the film all about time travel. No one is going back to win the lottery, kill Hitler, or prevent a crime. The film is more about the love stories between Tim and Mary and Tim and his dad and how he can make the most out of his time with both of them. He learns early on that there are consequences and that this ability comes with a price. There is a simple everyday romance between Tim and Mary without some tragedy that gets in their own. Yes, there are obstacles and roadblocks but it doesn’t have that unrealistic feeling that can come with something like a Nicholas Sparks story.

McAdams and Gleeson have a really sweet, infectiously charming chemistry to them. She has been partnered up with at least five leading men now in romantic stories, but there can be something missing in the chemistry. I’m thinking of Eric Bana and Owen Wilson in particular. Both their characters of Tim and Mary fit so well together that you can buy into their relationship even if the time travel throws you off. It is not just about two gorgeous people falling in love with each other. There is a dorkable and normal quality that each of them have. What is not to love about Bill Nighy?!? He is another one of those British actors where I love everything about them. The father/son relationship is so strong and integral to this movie, and it may even appeal to you more than say the Tim and Mary relationship. He always carries with him these sweet, charming, funny, and kind qualities which in this case anchors and elevates this story to something more than just your average rom-com. In his last screen appearance, wonderful character Richard Griffiths has a brief cameo playing an actor in the play written by Hollander's character. You may also remember that Gleeson, Nighy, and Griffiths all have appearances in the Harry Potter series!

Curtis has yet again gathered another endearing cast who is fully equipped to bring out the charm, wit, and quirks in his script. He is also known for his distinct choice of music used throughout. Like Love Actually, there are particular songs that define certain scenes featuring the likes of Ben Folds and Jimmy Fontana to name a few. On these chilly fall nights, sometimes a feel good romance can be just what you need to feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

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