UK Release Date: 4th September 2013
Runtime: 123 minutes
Director: Richard Curtis
Writer: Richard Curtis
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lindsay Duncan, Tom Hollander
Synopsis: When a man is told that he is able to travel backwards in time, he decides to use his new skill to get himself a girlfriend. But will it make him happy?
Richard Curtis is the real embodiment of a Marmite filmmaker. People either love him or hate him. Love, Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral are quintessential romantic comedies, and even the much maligned The Boat That Rocked was a bloated bit of fun. His latest effort, About Time, is another amusing, heartstring tugging tale, with a sprinkling of time travel.
Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is told on his 21st birthday by his father (Bill Nighy) that he, like all of the other males in his family, has the ability to travel in time. After a depressing few months living with angry playwright Harry (Tom Hollander), he decides to use his ability to meet a girl, in the shape of Kate Moss enthusiast Mary (Rachel McAdams).
It’s easy to take against a romcom – especially of the Richard Curtis oeuvre – for its excessive schmaltz. However, About Time is genuinely charming from the start. Likeable leading man Domhnall Gleeson makes a great impression and Bill Nighy is at his most avuncular. Their chemistry provides the film with its beating heart.
Unfortunately, this relationship also yields the film’s troubling use of time travel. Like any good time travel movie, About Time makes its rules clear from the start. It then proceeds to muddy those rules, bend them and eventually break them completely, adding new contrivances as it goes along merely to create a bit of drama before discarding them again.
A better film would get away with this, but About Time forces its audience to spend more time questioning the time travel than enjoying the film.
The biggest problem though is with Richard Curtis. It isn’t the jokes, because they are mostly rather good. The problem lies in the absolutely awful way in which Rachel McAdams’s character is written. To sum Mary up in one line: it’s a role that was too kooky even for Zooey Deschanel.
Mary doesn’t just adhere to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype – she is it. For starters, she’s absolutely gorgeous, but with a slightly dorky fringe and a tendency to dress a bit quirky. She’s into Kate Moss… before she was famous, of course. When she and Tim first meet, she trips over in a doorway because she’s just soooo awkward and clumsy and then they go to her home, which is above a vintage shop. Seriously.
As good an actress as Rachel McAdams is, Curtis’s script does not allow her to rise above this clumsy stereotype at all. Her character is too often sidelined in favour of the central father-son relationship and even Tom Hollander’s moody playwright.
So the time travel makes no sense, the script is a bit clunky and Rachel McAdams has absolutely nowhere to go. It’s also a bit too long and falls apart under its own sugary ending. There’s too much to enjoy for it to be an abject failure, but this is Richard Curtis ending his directorial career with more of a whimper than a bang.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.