Tuesday 20 August 2013

Review: About Time

World of Blackout Film Review

About Time Poster

About Time (Mild spoilers)
Cert: 12A / 123 mins / Dir. Richard Curtis

Wow. This one sort of crept up out of nowhere, with very little in the way of publicity. The advance screening of the new Richard Curtis comedy played to a modest audience*1, and was policed by two suited gentlemen asking people to turn their phones off at the door. Naturally, this didn't stop at least one person from turning it back on and texting during the film. But it makes Universal feel happy, and the audience feel important, so that's all good.

I digress.

So, the good news… I really rather enjoyed About Time. It's way too long*2, largely because the first two acts are essentially a very twee version of Groundhog Day, and the third one feels like an extra film's been tacked on the end; but when Curtis finally ups the ante in that last section, you're glad of the groundwork that's been painstakingly laid. The last half-hour is really what the film's about, and apart from a slightly preachy final five minutes, it's worth waiting for. For all my grumbling about Bill Nighy, he's been brilliantly cast in this, and despite Domhnall Gleeson's and Rachel McAdams' parts having been transparently written for the Grant/Roberts dynamic, they're on par with Nighy as the high-points of the film. Oh, and Tom Hollander is absolutely marvellous, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't meant to find him as likeable as I did. At its core, About Time is a film about love, romantic and familial; and if it takes a poorly executed time-travel mechanism to tell that story, so be it.

Oh, the bad news is that the time-travel mechanism is quite poorly executed (for reasons I won't go into here for fear of spoiling the film). Early on in the movie, we get Bill Nighy paraphrase Basil Exposition with his "…don't you worry about all that" speech, from which point we're meant to just accept it for what it is. Which would be easier to do if it wasn't so fascinatingly used, quite often. It should work, and I wanted it to work, but for anyone who's thought about any t/t movie they've ever seen, there are holes you can drive a bus through. The easiest way to think of it is that About Time is to time-travel movies what Shaun of the Dead is to zombie flicks; it's not what it's about, but it's how the story happens.

There also seem to be setups for potential callbacks/explanations littered around the film which don't get tied up. But I'm aware that could be me thinking with my time-travel head on. If I review this again, I'll delve deeply and mercilessly, I promise you.

If you can forgive the duration, About Time is a funny, moving film that deserves a wider audience that it'll probably get. Although it also deserves a more ruthless editor…

Is the trailer representative of the film?
No, it's better than the trailer.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
For the most part, yes.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
Eventually, yes.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
It's great on a massive screen, but you won't lose anything by watching it at home.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
A little.

Will I watch it again?
I will.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't, strangely..

And because you won't be happy until I've given it a score...

And my question for YOU is…
You'd put at least one bet on at the bookies though, wouldn't you? No, you would.

*1 I mean 'modest' in terms of quantity, of course. I, for one, am pretty fantastic.
*2 I'm still not sure if it's strangely ironic or comfortingly fitting that a film about time-travel can feel too long. It's definitely one of those.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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