If you were to ask the casual film-viewer what their thoughts are as to what is ultimately hampering the romantic-comedy these days, odds are they’d reply that their premises, unfurling of events, and happy-go-lucky nature aren’t very realistic, therefore supremely disengaging. Put in layman’s terms, almost everything about them is far fetched which renders their message, their point, their reason for simply being inert and unattainable. The rom-com used to be and should still be one of the most elemental, down-to-earth, and audience compatible genres. Yet nowadays, it seems that every week another cold, forced, and faceless piece of less-than-romantic, unfunny drivel is released. To make matters worse, the dialogue is contrived and overly gooey, and the characters either come off as pretentious, act un-rightfully entitled, or are just plain out loaded…in other words, they’re nothing more than couple of spineless, snobby saps unworthy of your time. Thankfully however, “About Time” is none of the sort.
Now, what’s quite ironic is that this aforementioned general opinion regarding the genre is itself fairly contrived, more just going with the flow instead of forming personal opinions…but there is a method to this madness. I mean, you used to go into the theatre to see a rom-com and be fairly sure that this, your dark, lonely existence would be illuminated…at the very least dimly lit by the opportunity, the chance at something with purpose. You know, something that would make the remainder of your days meaningful, bearable. Why? you ask. Well let’s face it, the honest truth is that this short span of time we have is extremely disheartening and the only thing that lights up our brief days is love, in its many transcendent forms. Today, you’re lucky if 10% of rom-com flicks are superb enough to evoke such a reaction and the rest miraculously flop, predictably.
I know that some of you are married or have significant others, and even kids, so the previous rant might not apply to you. If this is the case, just smirk condescendingly at my vulnerability…but I digress. Look, if I’m to be honest with you, my readers whom I adore endlessly. Recently I had given up on the big “L” word and the genre entirely (neither had anything to do with my dismissal of the other). The last rom-com that I can confidently say I swept me off my feet was “Wedding Crashers,” so yeah, it’s been a while. This year however, I’m feeling slightly more optimistic, I’m still, slightly young so there’s still time to turn everything around, and it just so happens that two of my favourite films of the year are romantic-comedies, those being “Drinking Buddies” and the one I’m about to review, “About Time,” a good sign for my progression if you ask me (optimism). However, this being said, my previous statements about the genre still remain prominent and true. With the exception of a few here and there, the genre is suffering…but this debate is for another day.
To switch things up rather abruptly, here’s a peeve of mine I hope you reflect. Don’t you hate it when a film’s marketing doesn’t do it justice or presents the flick itself incorrectly? This common, grave error occurs all too often and essentially leads to misinterpretations, bad auras, and critic negativity…you know, absorption misconceptions. A few off the top of my head, “Only God Forgives,” “On the Road,” and “The Counselor” just to name a few. Why I bring this up is because I fear that “About Time” was branded all wrong and that it’ll be misunderstood and underrated as a result…a thought my buddy brought up upon exiting the theatre that I had swirling around my head throughout its runtime that I agreed with.
To go even further off topic, did you know I went to the same university as “About Time” star Rachel McAdams, just a few years after she graduated? And Malin Akerman, but that’s besides the point. Doesn’t that suck? Here I am sitting alone, when I could be married to my ultimate crush had I been born just a few years earlier. Wow, this review got sidetracked in a hurry, let’s get back to the film.
There are few who know love as well as Richard Curtis, and even fewer who can execute it to such an effective degree on the big screen. Director of “Love, Actually,” and scribe of “Notting Hill,” just to rattle off a few of his most notable rom-coms, Curtis is one of the most talented and perennial minds the genre has ever known. He continues down this road he has long trotted and helped solidify with another piece of solid gold containing such mesmerizing humanity and willing vulnerability that it rivals even his most accomplished outing, whatever you feel that may be.
Following a quirky, romantic lawyer who has the ability to time travel to any moment in the past and change whatever he wishes. “About Time” might not be Curtis’ most original piece, but is definitely the most inventive, funny, and emotionally relentless he’s ever conjured, in my opinion anyway. Granted, the story’s structure and premise is nothing you haven’t seen or heard before, but try not to focus on the weary ploy of a lonesome time-traveler. What is most mesmerizing, astounding, and rewarding about this flick doesn’t have to do with the story or thematic retread, but rather what Curtis accomplishes and evokes with it. There is only one other filmmaker (Drake Doremus) I know of that can capture those subtle, minuscule movements and glances that exude true happiness, sadness, and disheartening realizations as well as Curtis does here. For just his third feature behind the camera, Curtis shows the talent of a wily veteran. Regardless if you’re a fan of his work, a cinephile, or just becoming aquatinted, this is a must see.
What’s even more important than having an invested, well-versed overseer conducting and directing the flow is a cast with chemistry, charisma, and honesty. Starring the lovely Rachel Mcadams, the immensely talented Bill Nighy, and sky-rocketing up-and-comer Domhnall Gleeson, it’s fair to say that “About Time” is formidable across the board. Gleeson, although remarkably skilled, still managed to stun me with his performance. The vast spectrum and depth of the emotions he portrays is decidedly accurate and plain-out staggering. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more authentic, driven performance this year. Nighy, who still flies unnecessarily under the radar here in North America, adds another flawless undertaking to his already stellar resume. Finally, the always radiant Rachel McAdams has somehow managed to leave me breathless once again. I’d love to go into more detail, but I don’t want to come off as a creep. All you need to know is that she delivers in every aspect…just stunning.
Nothing like the negativity you’ve probably read or heard and is anything but what you expected. “About Time” is, without question, one of the sleeper hits this year.
About Time: 8.5 out of 10.
Usually, a script is the foundation, the jumping off point for any picture. Now, when this screenplay, charged with the task of holding your film steady, is flimsy to begin with. Everything that follows, camerawork and acting and so on, can be nothing but disappointingly weak due to the faulty skeletal structure baring a majority of the weight. This neatly sums up what is essentially wrong with The Company You Keep. Apart from some good, albeit typical performances from a few of its cast members, The Company You Keep really has nothing new or captivating to offer, which can be said for a lot of Robert Redford directed pictures since the year 2000. I have nothing against Mr. Redford. I thoroughly appreciate his acting prowess and directing skills. However, it appears that since the new millennium, his artistic choices have severely dropped off.
Jim Grant (Redford) is a recently widowed single father. Formerly part of the Weather Underground militant wanted for a 1970’s bank robbery and the murder of one of the security guards. Ben Shepard (LaBeouf) decides to make a name for himself by creating a national story from the recently arrested Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon), also a member of Weather Underground. Ben visits his ex-girlfriend Diana (Kendrick), an FBI agent, and urges her to hand him information on the case. While Jim continues to evade the law, Ben keeps pushing for his story, intervening in issues beyond his control. When Ben meets up with a retired cop named Henry Osbourne (Brendan Gleeson) after harassing Jim’s brother Daniel (Cooper) for information, he is taken with Henry’s daughter Rebecca (Marling). As the situation progresses, Jim and Ben find themselves in life altering predicaments.
This was by far the most disappointing film I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival this past year. Upon reading up before hand on the plot, director, and cast, it was fair to say I was readily looking forward to its premiere. Starring the likes of Brit Marling, Shia LaBeouf, Anna Kendrick, Chris Cooper, and of course Robert Redford, amongst countless others with proven track records, it seemed implausible that The Company You Keep would let me down. However, by the time we reached the summit of its two hour runtime, the story and its characters were worn out. Even though it was plenty underwhelming from the get go. The Company You Keep arguably suffered from simplicity, irrelevance, and unsympathetic characters at a time when self preservation is on a decline.
Based on Neil Gordon’s novel of the same title, Redford had his hands full adapting The Company You Keep to the big screen. In a year that saw history come alive with films like Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, and to an extent Django Unchained. The Company You Keep didn’t harness any of the retro nostalgia or tension that made all of those films effective. The performing aspect of the film was something I thought I’d never question going into the premiere. What I mean by typical performance is, for example, Marling, Cooper, LaBeouf, and Kendrick, to name a few, made it look effortless as usual. The root of the issue stems from the limitations brought on by the tedious nature of the script. There is no room for these fine actors to evolve their roles. They aren’t allowed to make these characters their own due to the suffocating similarities in their roles.
Suffering from a bloated run time, stretched out story, and unlikable characters. The Company You Keep is a meek offering forcing its all star cast to under-perform and appear timid.
The Company You Keep: 5 out of 10.