The feel-good time-travel love story About Time is too long and overly sentimental for its own good.
Writer-Director Richard Curtis loves him some relationship stories. Content to churn out tear-jerking tales about relationships with a decidedly female viewpoint has been his bread and butter since 1999's Notting Hill. Since then, he's forced unsuspecting men to endure date night quagmires like Love Actually and Bridget Jones's Diary, while their dates bawl their brains out at the seemingly point-on perspective of Curtis. But with his lovey time-travel flick About Time, Curtis takes on a different angle of love through a man's eyes. The result is a likable but tortuously long film about how time travel can somehow help you live better with life's choices.
Imagine the following: you're the newly-minted 21-year-old Tim (Domhall Gleeson), and given the most extraordinary gift ever - the ability to travel back in time. In fact, his father (Bill Nighy) and all the men in his family can do this. The rules, loosely explained, restrict Tim from going forward in time, or backwards to kill Hitler. Instead, he can only affect his previous events in own life. Rather doing something important, like find a cure for cancer or preventing tragedy, he decides to romance the blind date Mary (Rachel McAdams). Tim, a slouching but charming chap, learns about time travel the hard way, first during a summer getaway in which his dream girl (Margo Robbie) outright rejects him, then rejects him in the future, then rejects him in between times. Thus, his decision to try with the more approachable Mary pays off resulting in hot sex but no financial success. In fact, none of the men seem to worried about money as Tim jumps back and forth to save his sister (Lydia Wilson), wish his ailing dad goodbye, have more children, fixed botched sex with Mary, and so on.
This is supposed to be funny, and it mostly is to see Tim excuse himself countless times to find a dark room or closet to travel, screw something up, then travel again to make it right. Gleeson is charming as the naive Tim, looking only for love and acceptance by his radiant wife; McAdams plays gorgeous pitch-perfect, donning that bright smile and not aware at all that she's the most beautiful thing we've ever seen, all of which makes for good theater. But, there's a disturbing element here, that lies in a relationship can be fixed with more lies, that seduction is more important than making mistakes and fixing them as a couple. The morality of what Tim is doing is never discussed, nor is there any consequence for traveling through time to get laid, and Curtis doesn't present any barriers for Tim to ascend once he's ascended Mary. Dad hasn't made that connection either, choosing instead to read every book in his library, instead of saving people from knowable death.
There's also terrible pacing issues here, as Curtis is content to show the drudgery of domestic life with neither Mary nor Tim the worse off for it. To Curtis, it's about mood over depth, and McAdams suffers under the shift to a Tim-centered story in Act 3. However its chief fault, the idea that women need saving, or at the very least need to be kept in the dark about secrets and lies, is what weighs on me more. We live in a time when all of humanity should be counted on to make the world better. The male hero complex is dead, replaced with the grand premise that we're all heroes and can make a difference. To leave women out of the equation - trying to re-establish man as the world's savior - is shortsighted to the extreme. This illusion of lies catches up to About Time rather quickly, inadvertently revealing how men (whether realizing it or not) create lies in order to fashion an unfair illusion of what all women supposedly want to see.
A comedy about time travel should have been chaotic, fun, and deeper than what About Time presents It leaves the best elements of love off the table, shirking its moral responsibilities for an overly-long, tear-jerker that piles on the sentimentality and never fully connects. Ladies, do your men a favor and skip this one for a deeper connection with him, sex not withstanding. I think you'll find the time much better spent. About Time is rated R for language, some sexual content, and McAdams' hot lingerie and has a runtime of 123 minutes.
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