It’s About Time Somebody Called Richard Curtis on This Shit

Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson in About Time. After holding this expression for three grueling months of shooting, both actors had to have their faces amputated.

Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson in “About Time.” After holding this expression for three grueling months of shooting, both actors had to have their faces amputated.

That’s disingenuous. Plenty of critics have called Richard Curtis on the way his new movie About Time cheats already. My take, which you can read on Monkey See now, is somewhat unique, I hope.

Backstory: I saw About Time on vacation in London Leicester Square about two months ago, several weeks before it opened here in the States. (Fancy!) With the exchange rate being what it is, two tickets cost me the equivalent of $50 — double the freight of a first-run movie here in Washington, DC. I would’ve been steamed to spend that much on a film I disliked. As I suspected I would, I enjoyed the film unabashedly, but I felt even guiltier for liking it than I’d felt for liking Curtis’s other sappy movies, but especially Love, Actually, which was particularly egregious. About Time‘s handling of its time-travel conceit was just so lazy and… unfair.

That got me thinking about all the other time-travel stories wherein the time travelers are basically just sore losers who choose to abandon their “native” timelines for ones in which they leaned on the scale to make things go their way. (See the ending of Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman, wherein — as my Superman expert pal Glen Weldon has explained in detail — the Man of Steel doesn’t really rescue Lois so much as he abdicates his own timeline in favor of one wherein he did rescue Lois. It’s complicated.)

I also thought about Ricky Moody’s mindbending novella The Albertine Notes, wherein much of the surviving population of New York City following a nuclear detonation is hooked on a drug that lets them revisit their memories with firsthand vividness. And Strange Days, Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron‘s fascinating sci-fi flop from 1995, wherein a dealer of illegal virtual-reality recordings soothes/tortures himself by rewatching the V.R. tapes he made with his girlfriend before she left him.  These two items aren’t even time-travel stories so much as they are stories about people living in the past, even though chemistry and software, respectively, have advanced to a point that makes it feel like the present.

I didn’t have room, or the need, really, to get into all that in my Monkey See piece. But it all factored into my thinking. Anyway, enjoy.

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