Curtis’ latest offering, About Time — which opens Friday at AMC Quail Springs Mall 24, 2501 W. Memorial Rd. — explores one young man’s family-inherited ability to travel through his own past, which he uses to create the life he thinks he wouldn’t have otherwise.
Living with his wealthy but eccentric family seaside in Cornwall, England, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson, Anna Karenina), a ginger-haired lovesick fellow, discovers on his 21st birthday that he has the gift of time travel. By way of his early-retired, loopy, Dickens-loving father — played by Curtis favorite Bill Nighy — Tim learns about the family’s exclusively masculine ability.
Mind you, this isn’t a time travel free-for-all. Tim is restricted to reliving his own past, so there’s no saving the world from hunger or Hitler. Tim can turn back the clock to appear more sophisticated or sexy, depending on the situation. All that’s required is a pair of clenched fists in a dark room and poof! Tim gets a do-over.
After moving to London to study law, Tim meets Mary (Rachel McAdams, To The Wonder), a pretty, self-effacing American with a serious case of face-eating bangs, which she makes random and frequent references to throughout the movie. (Curtis’ idea of a motif?) The mutual attraction is immediately — and predictably — palpable.
In spite of this effortless first encounter, Tim’s nervous sensibilities get the best of him; he realizes he lost her number the night they met. Recalling her endearingly American obsession with Kate Moss, he stalks Mary at a photography exhibition of the model’s work, knowing Mary will attend. When she does, Mary doesn’t know who Tim is because he erased their initial meeting when he used his capabilities saving a friend from a catastrophe.
Eventually, Tim’s overexertion to intellectualize their “mutual” (his newly constructed) love for Moss actually works, along with his wonderfully gawky British charm, making Mary the cinematic wife of a time traveler for the second time, still excluded from embarking on travels, along with all the women in About Time.
Curtis attempts to mask his reliance on sentimentality through familiar conventions. The charming backdrop is filled with quirky characters, presumably to distract from a complete lack of diversity. Take away the quaint setting and English charm and all that’s left is a hodgepodge of beige. Even with Nick Cave in the soundtrack, About Time emerges without an ounce of edge.
The film does, however, endeavor to pose a few ethical questions. When Tim’s flaky sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson, Never Let Me Go) is admitted to the hospital due to alcoholism, Tim has to decide whether altering his sister’s life for the better is worth accepting the changes that occur in his life with Mary. While he does use his time-traveling ability to improve his own circumstances, Tim never lets self-interest negate his family’s well-being.
In all its cozy, saccharine glory, About Time is a safe bet for a light first-date flick. If nothing else, by the end of the movie, you’ll know whether you’ve picked up a sap or a cynic.