About Time

Posted: November 8, 2013 at 2:20 a.m.

Many of us wish we could go back in time, but the male members of one British clan have been using this gift for centuries. When he reaches adulthood, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) learns that by going into an isolated room and thinking hard enough, he can correct most of the mistakes he has made.

Because Tim is the main character in a movie by Richard Curtis, the writer of Notting Hill and the director of Love, Actually, this gift comes in handy. Curtis, who’s also a co-creator of Mr. Bean, is an old hand at creating amusingly embarrassing situations for his characters to stumble through.

No, Tim doesn’t use his talents to change big historical events. That’s probably good because it would have been in poor taste to have him foil the July 7, 2005, London bombings or something like that.

Nonetheless, it’s great to have an Alt-Z option when his playwright friend (Tom Hollander) winds up having an opening night where an actor’s memory issues ruin the show. The gift also turns out to be useful in dealing with Tim’s troubled sister Kit-Kat (Lydia Wilson) and in wooing a stunning American named Mary (Rachel McAdams), who’s the woman of his dreams.

Gleeson, who’s the son of Irish actor Brendan Gleeson, essentially plays the sort of tongue-tied role that Hugh Grant would have played in Curtis’ earlier films and thankfully does it well. While he and McAdams make an appealing onscreen couple, they are upstaged by Bill Nighy as Tim’s wise father. Nighy can play gravitas and silliness (Tim’s whole family is a bit daft) with equal finesse, so it’s a shame there isn’t more of him.

Somehow the platitudes that Tim and his father utter sound better coming from the older man. If Curtis could go back in time, I wonder if he’d make a few editorial adjustments, because About Time occasionally feels padded. At just more than two hours, there are subplots that go nowhere (not even back in time).

One of the dangers of making a romantic comedy with science fiction elements is that it’s easy to fall in love with footage that really doesn’t belong. The audience has to share the affection the characters have for one another, and it sure helps to get that portion of the movie right the first time.

About Time 82 Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson, Lindsay Duncan, Richard Cordery, Joshua McGuire, Tom Hollander Director: Richard Curtis Rating: R for language and some sexual content Running time: 123 minutes

MovieStyle, Pages 37 on 11/08/2013