Thursday, 10 April 2014

About Time (2013)

I can't help it and I'm not going to apologise for it, but I love Richard Curtis movies.

I just do.

Except Notting Hill of course. That was just shit.

About Time is your typical Richard Curtis movie. Long gone and long matured is Hugh Grant, so in his place as the traditional fumbling hero is Domhnall Gleeson who, by virtue of being gangly and ginger, one imagines is actually closer to Curtis than Grant ever was. And like Four Weddings and Notting Hill (still shit, seriously his one horrible miss-step) he gives our hero a beautiful leading lady who hails from America, in this instance, the utterly utterly beautiful Rachel McAdams *sighs* Just marry me, now.

Gathered around these two are similarly young talents but also the traditional older guard Curtis ensemble such as Tom Hollander, Lindsay Duncan, Richard Cordrey and, in one beautiful moment a reunion between Richard E Grant and Richard Griffiths, all led by firm favourite Bill Nighy as Gleeson's father who, not long after his son's 21st birthday, informs him of the family secret; that all the men in the family can travel through their own personal timeline.

Now, don't panic - the film doesn't twist your melons. Curtis may have once written an episode of Doctor Who (hell, he even wrote an episode of Casualty once, and that was shittier than Notting Hill!) but he doesn't get too wibbly wobbly timey wimey about things. In fact, like Love Actually with its simple message of 'love is all around' or even The Boat That Rocked with its even simpler message of 'rock and roll', About Time's time travel stuff all boils down to a very simple message indeed; live for each day and do so with relish.

Some of the time travel incidents are telling of Curtis' sketch writer origins and they are very funny (Gleeson has sex with McAdams on their first night together three times in an attempt to get it right, impress and just enjoy himself and later, he makes such a hash of trying to reignite an old friendship with a girl he once had the hots for that in the end, he goes back in time, and simply doesn't bother) but they also possess a streak of near misogynistic manipulation that has made some viewers and reviewers a little queasy. That's nothing new I guess, I mean people were in arms about the scene in which Nick Frost allows Tom Sturridge to pretend to be him to have sex with Gemma Arterton in The Boat That Rocked, to the point that that singular moment pretty much sunk the film in terms of critical reaction, but honestly, is it any worse or different to Curtis' honourable good guy stalker storyline from Love Actually that featured Andrew Lincoln secretly longing for his best friend's new bride Keira Knightley? Let's just agree that, in a Curtis film, there's always that little element of darkness which offsets the perceived notion of sickly schmaltz the critics equally like to damn his work with.

In the end, the film isn't really a romcom, not in the traditional sense. It isn't really about the love between between Gleeson and McAdams - who actually I hasten to add have a rather nice chemistry together - it's more about the relationship between father and son, and its fair to say Gleeson and Nighy nail that chemistry too. So heartwarming and affecting is this strand of the story, perhaps its most important on reflection, that at the end of the movie I felt compelled to tell my own father how grateful I am for him.

And whilst About Time isn't the most perfect film (let's just say the stuff about his sister KitKat doesn't really work) and isn't even the best film Curtis has ever done (Notting Hill, remember) the fact that he can inspire a moment like that has got to show that Curtis gets something right doesn't it? 

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